Hello. I'm Simon Cross.
I must admit that I am happy I got this chapter written in a shorter time span than my previous one. Five months isn't great, I know, but it still pleases me. I want to send a sincere thanks to everyone that has patiently waited for this update, and a bigger thanks to those who kept reminding me to get this done. Without your help I probably would have continued to put this project off. I've been juggling a few separate projects at the same time, so having to divide my attention definitely stretched out the release of this episode. Regardless, I spent a lot of time considering where I'm going to take this season, and this episode had to be handled carefully to properly set up some things; that's all you get from me on that subject!
Episode twelve! First, I will admit that this episode ran longer than I initially intended. The main reason is because of the details and exposition it required. The downside of telling and not showing is that it takes so much longer to set up the environment. I worked hard to describe the settings as best as I could, while not deviating too far from the actual story telling. So, if something doesn't seem detailed enough, I implore you to fill in the gaps with your imagination! Still, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. This episode is meant to work towards character development and is an isolated story. It's not as long as my previous episode, but it's not far away from it either. Please please please review this episode! This is a fan site and it is YOUR critiques that help develop my storytelling skills. Tell me what I'm doing right and wrong, if you think I'm interpreting the characters wrong. I'll be honest, I've had to go and re-watch some episodes because I needed to refresh my memory about the characters.
I wish I could tell you when I would have the next episode out, but I really don't know. My free time has been dwindling so it may be a while before you see an update. I can say that my plans for the next few chapters follow an episodic pattern. I got a bit tired of the long drawn out story arc from the first half-season, so I'm taking a short break on that. That means I've got a lot of varied story ideas coming up, and maybe if I energize myself enough about them, I'll be able to get around to writing sooner than I anticipate.
Well, that's all I've got and I've kept you from the story long enough. Enjoy!
NOTE: I do not own Stargate Universe and all of these ideas are mine and not taken from anything the original writers of SGU had intended or from other fandom to the best of my knowledge. The opening statements in quotes are from SGU episodes and are not my words, except for quotes from my episode, "Launch". The episodes "Divided", "The Greater Good", "Deliverance", and "Twin Destinies" are sources for the quotes and they were obtained from the transcripts available on the Gateworld website.
"It's not a game, Colonel. Destiny's mission requires a level of commitment I doubt anyone in that ship's prepared to make.
Everyone on this ship is useful, not just those that are capable of F.T.L. calculations. We all belong here.
So everything happens for a reason.
Yeah, well, if you'd have said that to me a couple of years ago, I'd have dismissed it as superstition - a classic weak-minded response to the overwhelming complexity of the universe.
A message, perhaps, or a sign of intelligence from the beginning of time.
There is no mission other than getting these people home.
It was never about going home. It's about getting us to where we're going. That is the mission.
Who knows how close we are to finding it; how close we are to learning ... in the Ancients' words ... "the destiny of all things"?
My name is Yvsan, a Commander… or I should say former Commander of the Nati Imperial Defense Force. We are willing to help you.
If that's all true, then I don't think I need to say how much we could use an ally out here. We're alone, far from home…
Then it pleases me to say that you have found an ally.
He's stable; for the moment. They've got impressive technology that can help burn victims…
Well, this therapy will take me a long time. I have been told the technology is not portable, so the only way for me to continue my treatment is to stay with the Nati. Once I've recovered enough, I can begin to be active again and work on the planet. You know that I'm well studied in Ancient technology. I could make a difference for these people.
You've been invaluable, and played a large part of our continued survival. You're as much a part of Destiny as any of us.
They're never going to give up. You know that, right? Whatever information they got from me, it's just going to make them want the ship even more.
How did they find us?
It's possible they found this place the same way we did. They detected the transmission and came to investigate.
There's a good chance that is what happened. They're obsessed with Ancient technology, and the signal would've definitely piqued their curiosity.
Everyone thinks we're safe. They think that they'll never find us again. We're not safe, are we?
Brody opened his eyes right as the ship began to groan loudly. The typical distortion effect passed through the ship as the Destiny dropped out of F.T.L. and returned to normal space. For Brody, and virtually all of the crew members, this event acted like an alarm clock, starting a new adventure at a new and most likely dangerous setting. Yawning loudly, the doctor slowly sat up in his bed, sleepily rubbing his eyes. He proceeded to gaze out of the window and could make out a subtle yellow-orange hue against the hull visible from his quarters.
Rising, he took a few small steps to the window and squinted. Still far away, the local star was burning bright and illuminating the whole hull brilliantly. At a moderate pace, Destiny glided forward to the star, currently making its way through the outer planets. At this moment, a gas giant was to the starboard of Destiny with rings orbiting at an angle that was roughly forty degrees from the solar plane. Brody sighed and slowly proceeded to dress himself in the only set of clothes he had.
Roughly five minutes later, he was lumbering onto the Bridge. Rush already sitting at the center station, checking some sensor telemetry. Brody wasn't able to make it halfway across the room before Colonel Young walked in.
"What do we have today, gentlemen?" he asked making his way to the front of the room with an animated pace.
Rush turned around in his seat, giving a small nod of acknowledgement to Brody's presence as he sat down at the left station. "We've dropped out of F.T.L. in system and Destiny has already plotted a course to the star to begin refueling. We entered normal space at a substantial distance from the star, so we have fifty-three hours on the clock."
"Is there anything of interest we can check out while we're here?" Young asked, getting right to business.
The Scotsman shook his head, his long hair swaying around his shoulders as he did so. "There's nothing much here as far as well can tell from our location. The second planet is Earth-like, but there really is no need to put the effort into sending a shuttle to investigate. We're in range of three Stargates in adjacent star systems."
"Are we dialing out yet?"
"Aye, Mr. Volker should be getting readings from the first planet right about…" Rush started but was promptly cut off by the radio crackling.
"Bridge, this is Volker," the other scientist said from the Gate room.
Young grinned. "I think we've got this routine down a little too perfect," he remarked.
Grabbing the radio he had left on the edge of his console, Rush responded. "This is Rush, go ahead."
"I'm receiving telemetry on the first planet," he said in a monotone. "Initial scans look promising. It's got an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere, comfortable temperature. There's no outstanding threat from solar radiation."
"What about plant and animal life?" Young inquired, having picked the radio up from Rush a moment ago.
Static filled the radio for a few moments. "Affirmative on plant life and it looks like there's a river running just a hundred meters away from the 'Gate. I'm taking the Kino up to get a better look at the surrounding area. I'll let you know if I… woah," Volker said, his surprise clearly coming through over the radio.
At this moment everyone perked up and started to pay closer attention to the radio. Young immediately pressed on the issue. "What is it, Volker?"
"You gonna want to see this, sir," was his sole reply.
Brody immediately tapped in a short command on his console. "Patching us into the Kino feed," he said, the screens on all the forward stations changing from their usual output to display the distorted footage. Right now the Kino was clearing a tall tree, but a moment later it rose above the forest and presented everyone with a clear line of sight onto a large set of ruins. It was hard to see any details from here, but it was built alongside the river bank and went on for several kilometers away from the river. None of the surviving structures were taller than forty or fifty meters, but based on the piles of rubble and general layout of some buildings, there was no doubt that this city was massive and had been built by a sophisticated people. The decay was extensive, and the lower portions of most of the structures were overrun with vegetation.
"Bridge, are you seeing this?" Volker asked urgently.
"Roger, stand by." The Kino continued to fly over the city, but it didn't reveal anything significant, just streets and streets of ruin and uncontrolled plant growth. Young watched silently for a moment before speaking. "Is there any sign of life?"
Staring at his console with doubt, Rush looked closely at the input from the Kino. He shook his head a few seconds later. "There's no sign of recent activity within the ruins. I am reading some sporadic heat signatures, but they are coming from small creatures, most likely wild animals. No active power sources or radiation emissions. I'd say this city is completely deserted."
"It looks like this happened a long time ago," Brody commented as the Kino moved up, granted everyone a better view of the city. "Wait, what's that?" he asked, pointing to a black patch of the city that was just coming into view.
Young took a look at the area in question and spoke into the radio. "Volker, bring the Kino in for a closer look at the top right of the frame."
"I see it, give me a moment to get in position," Volker said compliantly. The picture started to move in towards the mysterious patch, everything growing rapidly in detail. Soon the Kino was positioned about fifty meters above the area in question.
Letting out a low whistle of amazement, Brody stared at the massive crater sitting in what seemed to be the center of the city. At least a whole square kilometer was flattened around the crater, with the building beyond that area heavily damaged, and the earth littered with ash and debris.
"Well, I suppose that's our answer," Rush noted, sitting back into his chair.
"It's consistent with the detonation of a ballistic missile, some of the damage in the surrounding area matches up with smaller explosives," Brody announced, now having context as he was sifting through data.
"This place was a warzone," Young said, summarizing everyone's thoughts and observations. He took a sharp breath before proceeding. "Does it look safe to travel into the city?"
Brody shrugged. "There's no immediate threat if that's what you're asking. It looks like this damage is decades old. If there is still a war happening on this planet, it's left this area well enough alone."
The Colonel nodded and returned the radio to Rush. "Tell Sergeant Greer, Lieutenant James, and Eli to meet me in the Gate Room. Have Volker check out the other two planets in the meantime." He started to walk out of the Bridge.
"I might recommend you bring Chloe along with you," Rush suggested before Young got too far. "Her skill set might be of some help in figuring out who they were."
"Good idea," Young acknowledged as he left the room.
His footsteps quickly receded down the hallways. "Is it just me," Brody said, "or did he seem more perky than usual?"
"It's been almost three weeks since we've come across anything dangerous," Rush speculated, running detailed scans on the incoming telemetry of this star system. "He's probably a bit anxious, expecting something bad to happen."
Furrowing his brow, Brody let out a tired breathe. "I couldn't do that; always worrying. It's hard enough just to keep the ship working; I don't need to fret over the next problem," Brody said as he moved to the science station in the back of the Bridge.
Rush paused for a moment and stared out the window, a pale blue light coming off of the gas giant as Destiny began to pass it. The star was visible between the rocks that made up the rings of the planet, casting beautiful light patterns as it diffused through the rocks and dust. "Everyone's got their job. Some people work on problems in the present, and others plan on how to solve the problems the future brings us." Brody gave him a quick quizzical look before shrugging of his comment and getting back to work.
Wray walked into the rotunda by the armory just in time to bump into Colonel Young, all outfitted and ready to go offworld. "Hello, Colonel Young."
"Camille," he said shortly but politely. She proceeded to follow him as he continued in the direction of the Gate Room.
"Did we find something of interest already?" she asked, taking note of his serious stride and countenance.
"The Kino found some ruins on the first planet we dialed up. I'm gonna take a team and see if there is anything of interest we can salvage." Listening intently, Wray furrowed her brow. She was getting ready to speak but Young cut her off. "I know what you're thinking. Brody said it looks safe to investigate the area, and we need to get more supplies anyways. Don't worry, we'll be careful."
Smiling at his comments, she gave him a sidelong glance. "Actually," she said slowly, drawing out the moment, "I was going to suggest you take Dr. Ryder along with you."
Young paused in the corridor and stared curiously at her. "Why? I don't need a geologist for this mission."
Looking around the corridor, Wray took an uncomfortable breath. "I know that, but my counseling sessions with Tabitha haven't been moving forward much lately. It might be good for her to get off the ship, even if just for a few hours. Being stuck out here is anxiety producing under normal conditions. For her, it's related to her imprisonment by the Lucian Alliance."
She spoke with a lot of emotion, almost pleading Young to do this. He grinned and nodded back at her, continuing to walk to the Gate Room. "Alright fine, go tell her to get ready. We'll be leaving for the planet within the next five minutes."
"Thank you, Colonel," Wray said smiling. She quickly strode off in the opposite direction.
It only took Young another minute to reach the Gate Room. The Stargate was active, a silver-blue glow shimmering across the room. Volker was at the main console, and the expedition team was already assembled, ready to go offworld. Chloe and Eli were talking by the stairs opposite from Volker. Greer stood stiff at attention when the Colonel appeared. Lieutenant James was adjusting the settings on her Nati pulse rifle, the core and barrel glowing with a soft blue. Looking closer at the Sergeant, Young could see a pulse rifle of his own slung over his back while he wielded his G36 rifle.
"Sergeant, are we ready to move out?" Young asked, standing beside Volker's console, gazing at the Kino footage being displayed on the terminal. It showed a vast arid landscape, devoid of any life which seemed to go on forever.
"Yes sir, just give the word," Greer responded pointedly.
Nodding in response, the Colonel turned to Volker. "What are we looking at?"
"This is footage from one of the other two planets," Volker said briskly, navigating the Kino from his terminal. "I wanted to check out the viability of the other planets while waiting for you."
"What did you find?"
The scientist shook his head in disappointment. "Nothing useful. The first planet looks like it supports life, but the Stargate is trapped down at the bottom of a ravine. Just from two minutes of Kino surveillance I recorded several massive tremors, so I'm guessing the 'Gate is on a major fault line and has been falling down into the ravine."
"I petitioned that we definitely don't go to dangerous earthquake planet," Eli chimed in, sitting tiredly on the steps of the spiral staircase.
Volker nodded his head in complete agreement. "That would be my recommendation as well. I don't even think it's safe to send someone to retrieve the Kino."
"We can manage to lose one," Young assented.
"Right, well as you can see the third planet is just a desert. I haven't found anything yet, but I'll send the Kino off in search mode and check in later," Volker informed right as the Stargate shut down. The vents loudly puffed as the Stargate circled back to reset itself.
Young nodded and checked his weapon, moving off to join the expedition squad. "Alright you do that. If you find something useful you can send a small team." Volker acknowledged the order. "Dial up the first planet."
As the 'Gate started spinning and lining up its coordinates with the Gate bearing, Dr. Ryder awkwardly rushing into the room, her gear clearly weighing heavily on her. She stared at Young for a moment from the threshold before taking a few big steps to join the group. "Sorry I'm late Colonel. Wray only told me to get ready a couple minutes ago and I tried to suit up quickly so I wouldn't miss you and I just…"
"Doctor," Young said loudly to get her attention, stopped her rambling mid sentence. Her cheeks flushed red as she realized she had been speaking so fast-paced and awkwardly. "It's okay, you're right on time." She nodded quickly and stood next to Chloe, who gave her a sympathetic smile. Eli rose from the stairs and walked up to the doctor, also giving her a reassuring smile. The support seemed to help stabilize Ryder's anxiety.
The last chevron locked and the connection was established. The bearing remained lit up and the gate kawooshed. Once more the room was illuminated by the wormhole's glow. "Okay, we've got a stable connection," Volker informed. "The Kino is waiting for you by the Stargate on the other end."
"Alright, let's move out," Young said. Greer and James readied their weapons and were through the event horizon almost immediately. Chloe walked through with Ryder who was still calming herself down from her uncomfortable entrance. Eli pulled out his Kino remote and followed right behind them. Once only Young was left, he turned to Volker. "Contact us in one hour intervals. Have a Kino sled and another team on stand-by should we find anything worth salvaging."
"Understood Colonel. Happy hunting," Volker wished sincerely.
Park lumbered down the corridor uncomfortably as she carried bags of equipment. In her left hand she had two backpacks bulging with seeds, and several narrow pipes were tucked under her left arm. She also had a heavy duffel bag that she was dragging slowly behind her with her free hand. As she took slow steps she lumbered along, groaning as the work was exhausting her.
Voices interrupted her struggle, and within a moment TJ and Varro popped around a corner of the hallway in front of her. They were talking, but Park wasn't listening closely to what they were saying. As soon as they saw her pushing forward with the piles of equipment, TJ and Varro stopped their conversation and rushed up to Park.
"Lisa," TJ said as she took up all of the metal pipes from her, "what are you doing?" At the same time Varro pulled the heavy sack from Park and slung it effortlessly across his shoulder leaving her with just the backpacks.
The relief spread immediately across her face as she found herself able to breathe and she stood up straighter. "I was taking this to the garden. I was going to plant more seeds, set up another plot of land, and expand the irrigation systems."
Both TJ and Varro chuckled lightly. "Were you planning on doing that before or after you buried yourself under a pile of dirt and pipes?" Varro asked jokingly.
Grinning sheepishly, Park continued walking towards the dome chamber, with TJ and Varro following right behind. "Well no one was available in the cargo bay when I was getting supplies, and Ronald is offworld now, so I just figured I'd handle it on my own." They reached the door to the garden very quickly as they were able to move at a good speed with the weight divided.
"Well we'd love to help," TJ replied. "The infirmary has been quiet for the last couple of days so it seemed like a good time to go for a walk," she said looking up at Varro with a small grin. "It might be nice to spend out free time working on the garden."
Park threw on a quick smirk and turned to face the large door. She palmed the door chime and the heavy door slid open. The first noticeable change was the lighting. Since Destiny was on approach to the local star, it really illuminated this chamber in comparison to any other room on the ship. Once everyone adjusted, they walked into the massive garden.
About a dozen different plots of land could be seen in the chamber. Empty storage crates were filled with top soil that had been recovered from missions, and pipes zigzagged across the floor carrying water around to all of the containers. Green sprouts were growing from most of the plots; some were just barely visible green pinpricks on the dark soil. Others already had stems growing up to a meter in height, and the beginnings of their leaves and fruits could be seen. Spaced randomly against the walls, there were several large canvases with tent poles lined up with them. There was a container at the far end of the room mostly filled with dirt and that was the one Park was heading to.
"You really have made a lot of progress down here in the last couple of months," TJ remarked, placing the bags by the container once they made their way to it. Varro opened the large bag he was carrying and found it was filled with dirt. He promptly began to pour it out into the container, filling it up to the top.
Park continued the conversation while she sifted through the soil and began planting seeds. "It's been a lot of work, but it's all been worth it. Getting the sprinklers deployed above the plots was a little tricky, but thankfully we found some creative ways to use the supplies we had. The hard part has been figuring out the winning combination of light and water for some of these plants. I've had to experiment with them in the hydroponics bay before I bother planting them here. So if we're in an area that's got too much light we need to set up cover to protect the sprouts." She pointed to the poles and canvas by the walls.
TJ looked around, admiring the work that had been put in to build all of this. "I guess this explains why I haven't seen much of you in the last few weeks," she said pointedly while beginning to plant seeds from the other end of the container.
Park was a bit startled by her comment, but swallowed and continued. "Well, lately it's been slow onboard, and we haven't come across anything worth investigating. I've had a lot of free time and this has been the best way for me to use it."
"You know you don't have to spend all of your time locked up here alone," TJ said sympathetically. She sighed and looked up to Varro who was leaning on the edge of one of the nearby containers. "How about this; like you've said, things are going slow here lately. We're not busy, so when we have a little available time we'll come down here and join you."
"Sounds like it could be fun and good exercise if today was any indication," Varro said getting a grin from both the women.
For the first time in a while, Park gave a genuine smile to them and nodded happily. "Yeah, that would be great."
"Okay, wonderful," the Lieutenant said, pleased she managed to turn Park's mood around. "Now, you," she said giving Varro a playfully severe look, "grab a handful of seeds and start planting."
"How much further to the city?" Young asked Eli. The team was following the river to the city since it was one of the more direct and easy to follow routes. In addition to that, it felt like a hot summer day and the rushing water provided a way to cool down. The bright sun was right above their heads at this point.
Eli checked his remote and gazed up at the sky where the Kino was hovering. He looked back down to the screen and tried to get his bearings. "I think we're getting close; we should reach the outskirts around this next bend," he said, pointing to a point in the river about two hundred meters ahead where it made a sharp turn to the left. They had been looking for any sign of the structures, but the surrounding forest was very tall and obscured the ruined city.
"Alright, we'll make our way into the city and split into two groups," Young said as they marched next to the water. "Hopefully between two teams we might be able to find something useful. Eli, you'll be with me and Sergeant Greer; we'll look for any salvageable technology. Lieutenant, I want you to take Chloe and Ryder and look for food, valuable minerals, and any clue as to what happened to the civilization here." Everyone acknowledged the orders.
"I wonder why there was nothing constructed by the Stargate," Ryder asked, trying to start a conversation as she was getting weary of just walking. "It just seems like the people here ignored it."
"That's not necessarily true," Chloe responded. "Without a dial home device the 'Gate would be useless to them. It's possible they regarded it like a monument or cultural site of a past civilization. Any signs that they had visited it could have been wiped away since the city was destroyed and it could have been forgotten by anyone else on the planet. I would agree that they didn't see it as anything important."
"As long as we don't find any disgruntled survivors of a war looking to kill anyone in their path, I'll be happy," Eli commented from further ahead. "Same goes for a legion of the undead, and rabid, evil monsters."
They proceeded in silence for a little while before Chloe found herself at the end of the team with Tabitha. She spent a moment to think before starting to talk. "So how have you been lately? I imagine life is a bit dull for you."
Ryder didn't answer at first, giving Chloe a short, nervous glance. "No, actually I've been keeping busy. One of my main focuses in research was planetary geology. Traveling from solar system to solar system has allowed me to see more in my field than I could possibly imagine. I just wish I could have more time with one celestial body. Just as I start to dig deep into one planet…" she paused and chuckled at herself, Chloe smiling as she say the scientist loosening up. "Pardon the word choice; it seems that we keep finding something new and amazing at every turn, and I don't know what I should pay attention to the most. It's a little overwhelming sometimes."
"It must be fulfilling though, at the end of the day to have learned so much," Chloe said, stooping down to run her hands through the cool water. She splashed her face before moving onwards.
"There's no doubt that it's amazing work and I'm thrilled to be doing it, but there's a piece of me that's upset I can't share my findings readily," she responded in a mellow voice. "Sure I can go back to Earth and write down a report there, but I just don't have the time or ability to take pages of data records with me across a stone connection to make it thorough and complete. I can't just write a paper and send it over. So much of the work we do out here doesn't make it back home, they just get a fragment of what we actually find out. And that really is a shame."
Chloe nodded, understanding where she was coming from and vaguely relating to her feelings. "It doesn't make what we do here any less important or amazing."
The scientist tried to put on a smile, but everyone was immediately snapped back to the mission at hand as Greer shouted from the head of the group. "I've got eyes on the city," he said. The Sergeant was about twenty meters further up from the two women and standing right where the river curved left. They hurried their pace to reach everyone else who was already standing there and looking on in awe.
The ruins of the city began almost immediately around the bend in the river. Green foliage grew on the outskirts and covered a great deal of the smaller piles of rubble. Roughly fifty meters further from their position there was a boardwalk from the beach that leads up to a courtyard overlooking the river.
"Alright, let's make our way up to that boardwalk," Young ordered, making his way to the head of the group. "From there we'll separate."
Before they could get ten meters the Colonel's radio went off. "Colonel Young, this is Destiny. Calling in for an update," Volker said.
Not slowing down, Young pushed his radio to talk. "Young here; we've just reached the city limits. We should be well into the city next check-in. How is everything on your end?"
"Destiny is still on course for the star, no complications," he responded. "Colonel, I was checking over the footage I got and I think I found something you might be interested in."
At that sentence Young paused and looked around the group with curiosity. "Tell me what you got."
"There's an intact structure roughly two kilometers west of your current position. The best I can tell it is specially built to take a pounding. You might find something of interest there."
Young walked over to Eli and looked at the Kino remote. "I see it," Eli said, having zoomed in the image dramatically to show a simple one story compound. It was definitely in one piece and looked as if though it had been hidden within a warehouse of some sort; the exterior structure had collapsed and revealed this compound. "Looks like whoever built it was trying to keep it secret."
"Well if they were in a war it stands to reason they would build a bunker or some kind of safe house that the enemy couldn't find easily," Chloe continued, now standing over his shoulder and gazing at the display.
"And it wouldn't be a safe house if it didn't have supplies to survive the end of the world as you know it," Eli finished with a grin.
Nodding in response, Young started marching back to the boardwalk. "Copy on the intelligence Destiny, we're making our way there right now. Volker, send in a second team to this planet; put TJ in charge of it. We found a lot of edible plant life within the immediate vicinity of the Stargate. Have them gather as much food and water as possible."
"Understood Colonel," Volker said.
"Radio us again in the next check-in time, Young out," the Colonel said as he took his hand off of the radio switch and returned his attention to the team. They had reached the boardwalk and were halfway up to the courtyard. From here they had a decent view into the street level of the city. The streets were quite wide, and there were some supports that extended from the buildings which had large cables running between them. It indicated that the city had some sort of cable car system to facilitate transportation. Now that they were closer to the buildings, the team could tell that most of the structures were made from stone. While the material was not sophisticated, there were still some signs that the architecture displayed beauty and careful thought. Most of the patterns and art work had been worn out or destroyed by weapons damage unfortunately. An uncomfortable silence had settled into this massive city, and eerie shadows began to appear across the streets. Eli looked up at the sky and noticed the star was no longer above their heads but quickly moving off to the horizon.
"Looks like the sun is setting fast," Greer commented, noticing the same pattern that Eli had seen. "We've probably only got another hour or so of daylight."
"This planet must have a pretty short orbital period," Eli reckoned, continuing to gaze at the Kino remote for his bearings.
"I'd rather not get lost in the city at night," the Colonel said, stepping into the center of the courtyard and looking around the wreckage. Eli stopped next to him and did the same. "Let me see that," he asked, retrieving the remote from the scientist. He looked at the street layout for a moment before continuing. "Alright, slightly new plan; we're still splitting up, but we'll meet up at this structure on the other side of the city. Lieutenant, you'll take your team and go straight down this street, it looks like it'll take you right to this building." He pointed to a long, prominent road that led from the courtyard up to the other end of the city, running very close to the compound. Some signs of destruction were visible in the path, but it seemed pretty easy to travel. "While you're doing that, the Sergeant, Eli, and I will take the scenic route through this part of the city," he said, gesturing to an area that was densely populated with tall structures and minimal destruction. "It looks relatively undamaged; maybe we'll get lucky and find something."
With that the two groups parted and started off on their designated paths through the silent, dark city.
Rush walked down the hallway into the Control Interface Room and found Brody already seated and working at one of the consoles. The holo-display was active and showed a detailed breakdown of the third planet in the solar system. Brody looked up from his console as Rush sat down at his own. "Find anything worth mentioning, Mr. Brody?" Rush asked as he brought up the telemetry of the planet on his station.
"The outer planets we passed through were all gas giants," he started, continuing to survey the current planet. "I saw a couple of moons with some ore deposits, but they're not easy to reach. It's not worth sending a shuttle to retrieve them. The third planet has an atmosphere, but it's too far out from the habitable zone. Heavy snow storms and turbulent winds would probably be problematic for a shuttle."
"We should be able to replenish our water stores for the planet the Colonel is investigating anyways," Rush surmised, looking at the same telemetry. "There's no need to worry about that."
"Agreed," Brody said. The planet disappeared from the display and a few seconds later a new planet replaced it. "We're starting to pass by the second planet now, running preliminary scans."
New information scrolled across the holo-display and Rush's console. He read through it and picked out the highlights. "I'm reading two moons in orbit. There's no atmosphere on either of the moons and there is nothing outstanding about their composition," he said as the scans focused on the closer moon.
"The planet has an atmosphere, and I'm detecting extensive plant growth across most of the land surface. Water bodies make up approximately fifty-three percent of the surface," Brody said with interest, carefully observing the varying climates across the planet. "There's forests, deserts, plains; enough varying ecosystems to support diverse life forms."
While staring at the telemetry, Rush began to furrow his brow. "That's odd; I'm picking up a heavy concentration of metal from the far moon, but… it's not coming from the lunar surface," he said suddenly interested in this planet. "It looks like there's something in low orbit of the moon."
Brody retargeted the sensors to get a closer look. The holo-display zoomed in to show only the far moon, which from this angle was partly obscured by the planet. As Destiny continued moving towards the center of the star system the image grew in more detail. Within a few seconds, a blurry dot became visible orbiting around the moon. "I've got a contact. There's something out there." He tapped a set up buttons and once more the image on the holo-display changed. Now it showed only the silhouette of the object. It was a massive cube sitting above the moon. Large tendrils could be seen reaching from the surface of the moon and rising up to the structure. Details were being added as the object was being picked up better on the sensors. "My God, it measures ten kilometers long in all dimensions."
"That's definitely an artificial structure, a space station of some kind. Those look like space elevators," Rush said as he analyzed the incoming data with great interest. "I'm not detecting any EM signature coming from it. That must be why we didn't see it right away."
"It looks like all of the systems are offline, there's no radiation or power spikes coming from it," the other scientist announced, reaffirming the analysis Rush had already provided. "It looks abandoned."
Tapping his fingers on the console for a moment, Rush switched the sensors to the planet. It was a few seconds before he spoke again. "There's no pollution, radiation, or electrical signals coming from the planet's surface to indicate an advanced civilization."
"So who built it?" Brody asked aloud, staring at the holo-display as he turned the sensors back on the station.
At that comment Rush took a deep breath, preparing a remark when something on the image on the object caught his eye. He quickly enhanced a section of the station. "Well I suppose that answers one question," he said as he gazed at a smooth section of hull that was decorated with constellation patterns and some blocky text directly beneath it. The Nati adornments were impossible to mistake.
"I wonder what they were doing out here," Brody wondered, ignoring the new data and just staring at the display.
Rush did the same for a moment, and finally rose from his seat. He stood in front of the display. "I don't know… but thankfully we know someone who might." With that he gave Brody a quick look and marched out of the Room.
The monitors on the Bridge descended, initially showing basic information on the ship. A second later a panel opened in the floor and a Kino was deployed. Rush sat in the center chair as Brody set up the communication systems. "Link is established; patching in the feed."
With that the displays went dark. Then they lit up and showed Kalin, sitting at a console in a Nati lab of some sort. Many consoles and individuals could be seen in the background, working on various tasks. Kalin himself looked as if though he had been in the middle of a challenging task when he had been called. He was clearly startled, but very happy to see his former crewmates contacting him. On the positive side, he looks significantly healthier from when they left him in the care of the insurgents. Most of the scarring had receded and he seemed to be mobile. "Doctor Rush, it's good to speak with you. I wasn't expecting anyone to call for an update for another two days." His demeanor was cheerful, but did betray some concern.
He paused before going on, and decided to forego any pleasantries. "Yes, well, it would seem we're in need of your help with a curious matter."
All it took was that simple statement to pull Kalin into a serious demeanor. "What can I do for you?"
"I realize it might be a long shot, but I was wondering if you might be able to provide us with some information," he said, tapping a few keys on the arm console of his chair. "I'm transmitting data on a station of Nati origin. We'd like to know what we might be dealing with before proceeding."
Kalin nodded with interest as the data came through on his end. He gazed at a console to his right. "Give me a moment to cross-reference this station through our database." After he spoke, he rose and walked with a noticeable limp to a terminal at the other end of the room. He exchanged some words with one of his colleagues, but without the translator Rush didn't understand anything the Nati officer said. After about a minute Kalin returned. "I have some information about the station you found, but unfortunately it's quite limited," he said in an apologetic tone.
"Anything you have would be useful," Rush insisted.
"Of course, I'll send over the intelligence we have on it," Kalin said. He moved to a terminal to his side, and in a few moments the communication station in the back of the Bridge beeped.
"I've got the files," Brody infirmed. He displayed some of the information on the rightmost monitor. Rush ignored it for the moment.
"According to the information we have, this is a deep space outpost," said Kalin, reading off of his terminal. "The insurgents managed to get a covert scan of it about eight months ago; that's where all the intelligence we have on this outpost comes from."
Brody spoke up from the back, slightly confused. "Wait, it's not in the Nati military database?"
"That's correct. The insurgents heard rumors that the outpost was a site for experimental weapons design, kept secret from most of the military and government channels." One of Kalin's colleagues interrupted him and handed him a tablet. Kalin took a moment to read over the information, and afterwards he turned his attention back to Rush. "I just read the report filed by the commander of the intelligence gathering mission. It was his best guess that the Nati were using this outpost as a staging ground with which they would expand into nearby sectors of space. He was convinced that a massive shipyard was contained within the outpost."
"It makes sense," Brody interjected, taking this opportunity to move up closer to Rush and into the frame of the Kino. "The outpost has space elevators to the moon; there was probably a mining operation on the surface and they sent raw materials up to the station."
Rush sighed and leaned back in the chair, caught up in his thoughts. "It still doesn't make sense why it would be kept so secret, or placed in this solar system."
"Unfortunately I don't have those answers," Kalin lamented. "I would recommend extreme caution however; the report indicates the outpost is heavily guarded and the commander could only spend a short time in the system without being detected. The insurgency felt they never had the proper fleet strength to approach this facility."
Both the scientists exchanged confused looks with each other. Rush turned back to Kalin first. "Kalin… the outpost is completely deserted. There's no sign of any active Nati presence in the system."
The Novus scientist was equally surprised at their statement, and remained silent for a few seconds to let that sink in. Finally he let out an 'hmm' of interest. "I'll admit Dr. Rush; at this point you've really piqued my curiosity. By any chance do you have plans to investigate?" he asked with a little smile.
"It had crossed my mind," Rush admitted in a plain manner.
Kalin held his smile and gave a nod to Rush. He looked solemnly back onto the Destiny Bridge. "I miss being there," he said following a moment's pause. "It was a good life I had there, and I miss the fun of exploring."
"Well," Rush started, slightly taken aback by Kalin's frankness, "I'll make sure to pass along any information we find onto you. Maybe you could find some use from it."
"Of course, Dr. Rush," Kalin said, pleased at the offer. "I wish you luck and safety."
Nodding his head in response, Rush rose from the chair. "Thank you for your help, Destiny out." He looked over to Brody who took a second to get the message. He quickly returned back to the communication station and terminated the link. The Kino quickly receded to its hiding place in the floor and the feed to Kalin ended. Rush spent the next minute staring at the schematics still flashing on the right monitor. Finally, he figured he had learned everything about it that he could. "Mr. Brody, would you have Varro and Lieutenant Scott find me in the suiting chamber?" he asked as he began to leave the Bridge.
Brody stared at him with a blank expression. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"I am equipping myself with a space suit so I don't suffocate, implode, and freeze when I step onto a space station devoid of life support," he snapped back as he passed Brody.
"You're just going to leave right now? Don't you think you should inform the Colonel about your plans?!" he responded loudly, following the insistent scientist out into the hallway.
"I'm sure he wouldn't have a problem with it," Rush answered, stopping a few steps outside the Bridge. "I would appreciate it if you prepared the Nati shuttle for launch." And with that he quickly walked off to the elevator.
"Say again, you found a what?" Young asked incredulously, pausing to stand atop a tall pile of rubble. From here he had a good vantage point to see a whole lot of nothing in the ruins. Eli and Greer were below him, rummaging through and empty structure that looked like some kind of storage center.
"There's a derelict Nati space station orbiting a moon of the second planet," Brody repeated over the radio, his voice slightly agitated. It didn't seem to be directed towards Young though, and that slightly befuddled him. "We're not detecting any signs of life or active power systems."
Young sighed and continued to gaze off to the horizon as the sun was setting quickly. "And you want to go take a look around?" he asked. There was a delay as Brody carefully chose his words. The Colonel shook his head as he took a guess as to the reason. "Rush is already out the door, isn't he?"
"Pretty much," Brody admitted sheepishly. "He's suited up and waiting in the shuttle. Lieutenant Scott and Varro are holding him back though; they're waiting for your orders."
He chuckled aloud to himself and stared straight to the colorful sunset. "Predictable bastard," he mumbled. He pushed down on the radio again. "What's your best appraisal of the situation? Is it worth checking out?"
"I'm not seeing anything on the station that looks dangerous," Brody said, pausing as he was undoubtedly checking the data on his end. "The defense systems are definitely off-line, so it should be safe to explore. As for what we could find; if the insurgent intelligence is reliable and this was a shipyard, we could found a lot of materials that could be used on Destiny. We're in good shape right now, but it's nice to think about the future sometimes."
With the sun departing below the top of the forest, the city crept into partial darkness. The primary illumination came from a moon that was settled high in the sky. Young carefully climbed down the pile of rubble and turned on the flashlight on the barrel of his rifle. "Alright, tell the Lieutenant they are cleared to go. On the first sign that something is going wrong they're to return to Destiny."
"Keep me apprised of his progress, Young out." He reached the street level and made his way through the wide entrance to the building. Greer and Eli were searching through some wooden crates that were sprawled all across the floor. "Find anything?"
Greer shined his flashlight over a dozen empty crates and finally turned back to the Colonel. "There's nothing here, sir. Everything's been emptied a long time ago."
"Most likely the survivors of the city took everything of value before they moved on," Eli said, joining the others.
"Fine, let's move on to meet up with the other group." He returned outside with Eli and Greer right behind him. "Where do we go from here, Eli?"
He took out the remote from his vest pocket and squinted at it. The Kino footage was pretty dark as the moon didn't provide much light for it to pick up. Eli switched to an infrared setting which showed two groups of warm dots. They were separated by only a small distance. The team led by James was positioned next to a patch of the city that varied from the rest of the city. "We need to go forward seven more blocks, and then go right for five blocks. That should lead us to the compound. It looks like Lieutenant James is already there."
Young began moving immediately, holding a fast pace as he didn't want to out in the night for too long. He pushed down on his radio. "Lieutenant, what's your position?" he asked, just to confirm Eli's assumption.
The response came a few seconds later. "My team just reached the target structure. We'll remain put until you arrive, sir."
"Copy that; we're closing in right now. We should be there in about ten minutes." Shining his light ahead of him, the street seemed relatively clear of any obstructions, so he stood by his estimate.
"Understood Colonel Young; unfortunately we didn't find anything on our way here," James said into her radio, pointing her flashing light at one of the surviving buildings. About five stories of it had survived but after that it had jagged edges from where it had been blown up. Most of the remaining stone structure was holding together, but virtually all of the windows had been broken through. Some shards of glass that had remained intact reflected the light back at her, but there was nothing impressive left about any of the structures.
"Same goes for us. Hopefully we'll have better luck at the compound; Young out." The line phased to static quickly and James released her radio.
Chloe walked past her and approached the intact structure. It clearly had been hidden from casual observation inside an average looking building; the rubble from the enclosing building was everywhere, and partially buried the opposite end of the metal structure. The compound itself was relatively small. It only stood one story tall and was about twenty meters long in length and width. There were no windows or openings that allowed anyone to see inside other than a door at the front which was wide open. Unfortunately, it was pitch black inside, and Chloe couldn't see anything other than a hallway as she pointed her flashlight inside. "This place looks as lifeless as the rest of the city."
"Guess no one got a chance to use it," James guessed, moving in closer to the entrance.
Finally, Dr. Ryder walked up and joined them. She was starting to shiver in the cold night. "That doesn't make sense though. The rest of the city has been plundered completely. Why wouldn't then take shelter in here?"
Watching her shiver, Chloe wrapped her arms around herself. "I don't know. Maybe they exhausted the supplies here and left as well?" James shrugged in response and moved back out to the street so she could keep an eye out for the Colonel's team.
Tabitha sat down on the ground and looked around the ruins. "Isn't it strange we haven't found a single body? I haven't seen as much as a bone or anything that could give us a clue as to who lived here."
"I've had a strange feeling about this place ever since we entered the city," Chloe consented slowly. "Maybe it's the emptiness; it's almost as if though the inhabitants left before the city was attacked."
"Maybe they knew an attack was coming and used the early notice to escape?" At this point Ryder stopped shivering as she put a lot of her mind on these ideas.
"Then why wouldn't they stay and defend their homes?" She paced around the patch of undisturbed ground and thought intently. "I kind of hope we find some answers in there. It feels kind of silly to say so, but I really want to know. We'll only be on the planet for another day or so, and that'll be it. After that we can just forget about it, and still, I just want to know what happened." She grinned lightly and sat down on the ground opposite of Ryder.
For the next several minutes the three of them waited in silence. Finally, James called from the street. "I see them." Chloe rose and walked out to the street to join the Lieutenant. One block to the right there were three dots of light moving fast.
A moment later Young was at James' side and stared at the complex. "Well, let's take a look. We've already wasted hours on nothing." He sighed and gestured to the passageway. "Sergeant, take point. Lieutenant, take up the rear. The rest of you stay in the middle and don't touch anything.
"What if I find the light switch?" Eli asked as he stared grimly at the dark interior of the complex.
Young paused at the threshold and looked seriously at the young man. "Don't. Touch. Anything," he said, holding steady for a few seconds and then loosening his demeanor, "without alerting me first." Eli swallowed hard and nodded in quick, short jerks.
With all of their flashlights pointing into the hallway, the team started to move into the complex. The main hallway ran about two-thirds the length of the complex and had two doors, one on either side of the hallway. There was also a locked door at the opposite end of the hallway. The door on the left was closed, and upon closer inspection betrayed no weakness or lock. Looking to the other side, the door on the right was wide open.
"I guess that narrows our choice," Ryder said, talking so as to help with her anxiety.
Young turned to look at her and held the gaze for a few seconds. He realized he didn't really know much about her and had only gone offworld with her a couple of times. Trying to soften his countenance, he nodded in the direction of the open door. "Let's go take a look."
Greer walked in first with Young right behind him. This room was even darker than the hallway which at least had the benefit of some light coming from the entrance to the building. At first he didn't see anything other than the smooth metal floor, but finally his light found a row of terminals along the wall.
With a light hum the Kino flew through the doorway and startled everyone. The Sergeant pivoted quickly and aimed his weapon at the floating camera. He sighed loudly and pointed his light at Eli, giving him a sour expression. "Sorry, I just thought we should document what we find." Lowering his weapon, Greer resumed his search.
Young slowly walked up to the terminals and inspected them closely. Eli took a look as well. "What do you make of it?"
"Well they clearly were a technologically sophisticated society," he started off, shining his flashlight to get a look at more of the equipment. "I'd say their technology is on par with Earth of twenty years ago, but that's just a guess. Without turning things on I really don't know." He moved across from station to station until he found something that piqued his curiosity. "Hello there."
The console he was looking at had most of the same features as the others he had seen, excepting for a large lever that dominated the right part of it. "That looks important," James said.
Eli nodded in agreement. "Yeah, if video games have taught me anything, it's that giant switches, buttons, and levers tend to turn things on." He turned to look at Young. "It's worth a try."
Sighing, Young gave him approval, gesturing to the lever. "Fine, go ahead."
He held his flashlight up and checked the rest of the console if there was anything useful. Convinced there was nothing else he could use, Eli firmly grasped the handle of the lever. Taking a deep breath, he prepared to raise it. "Okay, here goes nothing." With a tug, he brought it from its lowered state all the way to the top of the console.
Nothing happened for a few seconds, and then there was a dull thud and clank that was heard far below them. It resonated up through the ground and finally some of the computer systems started to turn on. The light panels in the ceiling activated, helping to illuminate the room. A low hum filled the room as the equipment generated noise. Just as the complex powered up, several power surges moved through and caused a row of computers at the back wall to erupt in a sea of sparks. The ceiling lights in that part of the room also began to flicker intensely. All of the civilians cringed as this was happening while the military personnel watched on, noticing there was no immediate danger.
Very quickly the room settled in peace and the team was able to look around and see everything with relative ease. The center of the room was left completely devoid of any equipment or furniture. Instead, everything was lined up against the wall. Monitors were fixed into the walls above wide tables, and terminals filled in the rest of the space. Each terminal had a small screen fixed into the left side, and the rest of it was filled with various push buttons, most inscribed with characters in the alien language. Some data appeared on the monitors populating the walls, but after a few lines of strange boxy glyphs flew across the screen they all went dark.
Eli looked around the room, interested in the function of this place but clearly not impressed. Now that the room was properly illuminated, it was clear that a thick film of dust covered every surface, showing how long it had been abandoned.
"Now what do we do?" Greer asked, noticing that really nothing had been accomplished.
"What's that over there?" Ryder inquired, pointing to a terminal up to the front of the room. The screen on the left of the terminal displayed video footage instead of data like the other terminals. Eli approached it and took a quick glance at it. "Wait; is that the locked door outside?"
"Sergeant," Eli said, gesturing to the hall while not looking up from the screen, "could you walk out into the hall?"
He cooperated and walked outside, standing by the locked door. With the lights on in the hallway, he now saw what looked like a gap in the ceiling, right where the video was positioned.
"This must have been a security checkpoint for entrance into the rest of the facility," James vocalized from the center of the room. As she looked at the damaged consoles at the back of the room, she noticed scorch marks around the walls and floor. "I'd also be willing to guess that the war found its way into here."
Eli stared at the console for a while without avail. Finally he looked up and gestured to Chloe. "I bet it's a long shot, but does their language make any sense to you?"
She sighed unconfidently and walked up to his console. First she blew on the console, removing as much obstructing dust as possible. Around half a minute later, she let out a small gasp of realization. "These look like pictographs." She pointed to one of the symbols located above a button. It was a large rectangle with a smaller rectangle sitting against the left side. On the right side there were double arrows filling the space. "That could represent a door."
He gazed up at her with an incredulous expression. "That sounds conveniently obvious."
"Well, a door is a door," Chloe reasoned, speaking quickly while consciously trying not to be condescending. "Their technology is somewhat similar to ours, so it stands to reason that if their language is based on pictorial representations the symbols would include various static and dynamic characteristics of the object in question. In this case a door opening and closing." She said it all in one long breath and left Eli wide-eyed.
"Okay then, you win." He turned to the Colonel who had been watching silently from a meter away. "I guess it's your call."
"We're already here," he said pointedly. "We might as well see what this is all about."
With a nod, Eli turned back to the terminal. He reached and pushed down the button associated with the door pictograph. There was silence for a second, and then a chirp resonated from speakers across the room. After that a loud clang was hear outside of the room.
"Sir," Greer called from the hallway, "the door's opening up."
The whole team left the control room and met up in the hall. The door opened onto a stairwell that descended quickly into an underground portion of the facility. James stepped forward and looked around. There was a railing that provided safety from the edge, and the Lieutenant peered over the rails. She cast her light down as the rest of the team joined up.
"Whoa," Eli gasped as he looked at the massive complex below him. There were large modules that filled the space and catwalks that ran across between them. It was an entire interconnected mess, and based on the modular design it was meant to be an adaptable facility. "Welcome to Aperture Science," he mumbled. The lights continued to turn on throughout the complex and revealed the cave to continue for a long way in what would be the direction away from the city.
"Well, let's take a look around." Young went first down the stairs which seemed to go on for a long time until they reached a catwalk that joined two large modules.
The shuttle flew by the second planet on its way to the station. All three of the occupants were dressed in space suits but for the moment chose not to wear the stuffy helmets. Their gear was sitting on the built in seats on the port side of the cockpit. Scott rotated the shuttle so the planet seemed to be above them, and as he gently glided the craft through space, he took a moment to admire the beautiful landscape. "That's a hell of a sight."
Varro gazed up from the co-pilot's seat next to the Lieutenant. He nodded in silent agreement and returned his attention to his station. "We're coming into visual range of the outpost now."
Over the edge of the planet the moon was already half visible. At this moment the star was behind them, so everything was well illuminated for all to see. A few seconds after Varro spoke, the outpost crept into view, sliding out from behind the planet. It quickly began to dominate the vista, protruding like a great blemish on the face of the moon.
"Rush, get on the sensors. I need an approach vector," the Lieutenant ordered.
The scientist was already seated at the science terminal, reading off data on the outpost. "The space doors to the interior are closed. I don't see a maintenance entrance or shuttle bay. They must have just the one way to get inside." He sighed as his scans continued. "Hang on, there's a transceiver assembly thirty meters port of the space doors."
"What about it?" Scott asked as he began to slow the shuttle down. They had passed by the planet and were getting closer to the outpost. It was already filling up the viewport even though they were over a hundred kilometers away.
"Well, it stands to reason that there must be some way to open the doors from the outside." He executed a precise scan on the location in question and announced his findings. "I believe that this assembly will activate if give a proper signal. It should power up the space doors and open them."
"I imagine that the Nati shuttle should have some activation codes for their outposts," Varro speculated, craning his head to look at Rush.
"That was my thought as well." He swiveled in his seat to the terminal to his right and searched through the database, momentarily discovering what he needed. "I have access to the Nati communication protocols. I'm hoping that they work on a universal setting for all Nati outposts."
The hum from the shuttle's engines died down as Scott brought it nearly to a dead stop. They were sitting about two kilometers away from the space door. The doors were massive, quite possibly almost a kilometer wide. Off in the right corner of the view there was an outcropping in which antennas and satellites sat. Scott tapped a button on his console. "Destiny, this is Lieutenant Scott."
The line was static for a little bit until a response came. "Brody here."
"We've arrived at the target and are holding position outside the entrance. Doctor Rush believes he can use Nati communication protocols to open the doors. Just thought we would give you an update on our status," Scott informed as he fired the thrusters to match the orbital velocity of the station.
"Understood; I should warn you that we're entering the star's corona soon. Magnetic fields from this star are pretty intense so we'll most likely lose communications until we're out of the star," he stated, the transmission coming through slightly garbled already.
"Copy that, we'll do our best not to get into trouble. See you on the other side; Scott out." He shut off the comm line and turned to look back towards Rush. "Okay 'doc, what do you say we let ourselves in?"
Rush began typing commands into his console. "I've matched the frequency for the transceiver assembly; sending the activation sequence… now."
They stared at the unmoving doors for a while before Scott looked back to the scientist. "Nothing's happening out there."
"Yes, thank you; I can see that," he replied, annoyed at the comment. He looked back to the sensor station. "I'm detecting increased power output from within the outpost. It must take a while for it to power up."
As Scott and Rush were talking, Varro never took his eyes off of the station. Almost right after Rush was done talking, a series of lights flashed to life around the door. "There," he said, nodding his head in the direction of the doors. The lights flashed in a pattern, operating like a runway directing ships towards the door. "I think the door's opening."
With everyone's attention fixed on it, the door began to open on cue. A vertical gap opened up in the middle as the doors slowly made their way to the edge of the threshold. Inside it was pitch black dark at the moment, as the station didn't seem to be fully operational. Once the doors reached about thirty meters open, they came to a full stop. "What happened Rush?"
"They ran a passive scan on us when we sent the code," he answered, looking over sensor logs. "I suppose it's possible they only opened the door as wide as they felt was necessary for a shuttle. The station is running on minimal power; they might be optimizing operations."
"Okay, I'm taking us in." The shuttle lurched forward as he began to accelerate the craft, quickly closing the distance to the space doors. "Rush, stay on sensors and tell me what you see inside. Varro, give me some lights." As he finished talking, the shuttle passed between the partially opened doors with plenty of space on either side. Scott paid attention to the fact the doors were at least five meters thick. "This place was definitely built to take a beating. The insurgent fleet could fire on this position for a while without any progress."
"All the more reason to wonder why the Nati left," Varro said, articulating the Lieutenant apprehension. He tapped a few keys on his console and brought the spotlights online.
The crack in the door illuminated a small stretch down the center of the outpost, but there was nothing impressive for the first several kilometers. There were long pipes that seemed to travel the length of the whole outpost, and some cables and elevators that were designed to transport supplies around. Now, in its inactive state, the lifts were hanging motionless on cables all over the facility. Once the shuttle's lights came on, they first shone on a spot below the craft. It was a facility that sat about forty meters above the ground with two thick, insulated tubes connecting it to the floor. Several bridges went off in various directions, most likely connecting to other important locations.
"I believe that area is a transport hub," Rush said as he stared at his sensor terminal. "It's connected to one of the space elevators. They likely had mining operations and delivered their supplies straight to the facility. The command center must be further along."
Scott turned the shuttle port and followed one of the bridges which seemed to run in that direction for a long time. "Let's take a look around then."
They were flying about two kilometers off of the floor, but found very little in the outpost. Every half a kilometer there were massive columns that went from the floor all the way to the top of the outpost. Each column had large mechanical arms that looked akin to those the Nati cruisers are equipped with. At the moment they were all inactive and resting against their post. The bridge Scott was following went on and on; it intersected with several columns along the way, most likely as a way to better connect the facility. "I can't imagine how much time and resources they had to put into this place," Varro said softly, as he set one of the spotlights to search to the starboard of the shuttle. He still found nothing of interest. "Only to pack up everything and just leave?"
"Perhaps not everything," Rush muttered from his station, only partially listening to his crewmates.
"What do you got for me?" Scott asked, glancing back at the doctor, if only to get a break from the repetitive vista.
"There's definitely a large structure, or several structures ahead of us," he said vaguely, not quite certain of what he was looking at himself. "No power or heat signature emanating from it, but… it might be a ship. It's dead ahead, eighteen hundred meters."
Varro shifted the spotlights from the bridge they were tracking to directly in front of the shuttle. The light didn't show too much, but it was clear they were reaching the starboard edge of the station. There were significantly more columns and crossing bridges in this area. Robotic arms were suspended from support beams all over the place and storage pods populated the area as they clung to docking ports across the columns. "Shift the light starboard sixteen degrees," Rush suggested as he also noticed there was nothing to see.
Complying with the advice, the lights panned across to the right, sweeping over metal bars everywhere. A moment later, the light hit something else, a sleek shape sitting inside of a group of columns and metal arms. It didn't take anyone long to recognize the shape as the nose of a Nati cruiser. It rested peacefully in a docking berth, connected to the station by a dozen docking clamps. As the light continued over the rest of the ship, it became quickly obvious that this ship was in the early phase of being built. While the front had most of its hull in place, the rest of the ship had its framework exposed to space. "Holy crap," Scott uttered, slowing the shuttle down so he could get a good look at the incomplete cruiser.
"The records on this outpost did indicate this was a shipyard," Varro commented, not too impressed at the sight in front of him. "The entire length of this station could have berths for constructing ships. Anything we saw towards the center might be refueling and repairing stations. I doubt they would want to fill this place up with ships to the point they couldn't move around."
"It's certainly plausible," Rush agreed from the back. "They could have enough berths here to work on dozens of ships at the same time. If the Nati were planning an incursion into the next sector of space, they would want as large a fleet as possible."
"That ship, over there!" Varro exclaimed, pointing to a ship to the right of the current cruiser. It had a different framework, this time more circular design, but still familiar to the Destiny crew. "Isn't that the hunter ship with the phase-shifting technology?"
"Aye, and I for one am very glad they didn't finish more of them," Rush commented as he recalled the trouble one of them caused.
The Lieutenant pulled the shuttle back to get a better field of view. Varro also scanned around the wall with the light and looked over more than two dozen berths. There were eleven ships in this pocket of the station; all of them in various stages of construction. Some were only partially finished frames, while others looked almost complete and probably only needed interior work. Everyone in the shuttle stared at the sight, slightly intimidated at the sheer number of enemy ships that this place could produce.
"Alright then; we've gazed, and I'm amazed. Now maybe we can find the command center?" Scott asked.
Rush nodded and looked back down to his console. "Those bridges seem to connect all the vital areas in the facility. Most likely if we follow them back we'll eventually run across the central hub of the station."
"Right, all roads lead to Rome," he stated, bringing the shuttle down and looking for the bridge that he had followed before.
"What?" Varro inquired, being unfamiliar with the expression.
Scott turned to look at his co-pilot and chuckled. "It's just a saying back on Earth. Basically these bridges will show us the path to the center of the station." As he spoke the shuttle was already gliding high above a bridge on its way to the original hub they saw. The light from the opening in the door came through brilliantly and lit up their destination.
"An expression based in historical fact," Rush interjected lazily from his post, "since all roads in the Roman Empire, either directly or indirectly, did lead back to Rome. A concept that the surviving Ancients most likely introduced to the Romans to better organize their empire."
Listening to him, Scott rolled his eyes and continued to hold his course steady. Very soon they reached the hub connected to the space elevator they had started at. From it he turned left, following it down to the center of the station. He flew a lot closer to the floor this time than he did before, looking more closely at the details on the ground level. Most of it was covered in pipes or exhaust vents. There were portholes located throughout the place, all looking into the dark interior sections of the station. Overall, there wasn't a part of the station that didn't have some feature that made it busy and cluttered. "This place must've been something to see when it was fully operational," he thought aloud. "Shuttles flying around, ships being built; it would have to be alive with action."
"There's a structure ahead of us," Rush interrupted, his tone betraying his annoyance at the conversations. "I'm reading multiple connecting bridges, and most of the power conduits link up at this location."
From this distance the module was visible, but it didn't look too impressive from three kilometers away. Once they were a few hundred meters from the center, it looked more important. It was built into the floor of the base and rose straight up for at least two hundred meters. Bridges intersected it from all four sides, and pipes and tubes ran along the lower part of the building. Clearly it was a power and command center for the facility. Just like the rest of the outpost however, it was very dark, with no signs of life emanating from it.
A short chirp came from Rush's console. "I'm detecting a docking port for shuttles three levels above the connecting bridges. We should be able to make our way into the command center through there."
The spotlight tilted up, showing a level that had a large landing platform hanging off of the edge of the building. On the surface there were multiple empty pads for a shuttle to land on, with circular doors leading into the compound. Scott raised the ship up a few meters, and stopped it right in front of one of the pads. Then he spun it around and gently lowered it, using the docking sensors to properly line up the doors. The shuttle touched down with a bump, and the engines went silent as Scott powered down the craft. He rose from his seat and moved to get his helmet. "Suit up."
Varro was at his side immediately, placing his helmet over his head and twisting it until it clicked into place. He pulled a Nati pulse rifle from the weapons rack by the cockpit door. Scott did the same, and they both waited a moment for Rush to secure his helmet. First he fixed a Nati translation device to his temple, and then put on his helmet. "It's just a precaution," he said as he got quizzical glances from the two military personnel. After that he moved back to the science station. "I'm venting the atmosphere from the shuttle." He tapped a few keys, and then the shuttle hissed for a few seconds as the air was drained from the interior.
Very quickly, the craft was left in an eerie silence. Everyone activated the communicators in their suits. Scott walked to the back of the storage area in the shuttle, and palmed the lock. There was a second delay before the door complied and slid open, revealing the locked door on the station.
"There should be no power to the magnetic locks," Rush said as he joined them in the back of the shuttle. "It should be fairly easy to force open."
Scott looked up at him with a tired expression. "If it's so easy, you open it then." When Rush didn't move, he nodded slowly back at him. "That's what I thought. Varro, you get that side." He grabbed onto the right door while Varro grabbed the lip of the left door. Straining, they both began to pull towards to door's frame. Their struggling came through loudly on the communicator, and a moment later their work was rewarded as the door parted and they could get a better grasp on the door. Soon there was enough room for a person to pass through.
Turning on the flashlight that was taped to his rifle, Scott walked into the station, with Varro and Rush right behind him. As soon as the stepped out of the shuttle, they left the gravity field that was generated by the craft. They floated a little bit off of the floor before slowly returning to the ground.
"The outpost is fairly close to the surface of the moon, and scans did indicate it has a dense core," Rush surmised, as he activated his magnetic boots. "We'll have partial gravity until we can reestablish the station's own gravity field." Scott nodded in response and proceeded out of the airlock, turning on his own magnetic boots.
The inner door to the airlock was already open so they proceeded into the hallway. It was the same polished silver metal that formed a typical Nati base. There were few outstanding features as the interior design was based on smoothness and cleanness. "Where do we go from here?"
Rush pushed through the two of them and started off down the right passageway. "During my scan of this building I found what I believe to be their control room. It was five levels above us, at the top of the building." He stopped by a ladder that was inset in an alcove down the hallway. "This should run all the way to the top." Scott grabbed his arm as Rush started to climb.
"Hang on, let me go first," he insisted.
"I appreciate the concern, Lieutenant," Rush responded, somewhat irritated, "but there is nothing dangerous here to be worried about."
"You're probably right, but I'm still going first." He stared sternly at the scientist, which didn't do much because he couldn't see much through the pale blue light from the interior of the helmet. Rush sighed but took a step back. With that, Scott slung the rifle over his shoulder and started the climb. Looking down he could see it went down to the base of the building.
As soon as there was enough room for another person, Rush got onto the ladder and followed right below Scott. Varro took up the bottom and made the climb. It was slow work climbing in the space suits since moving in clunky armor wasn't easy. They reached the top in a few minutes and exited on the top level.
There was a wide hallway on this level, about thirty meters long. One side was covered in windows which looked on in the direction of the space doors. The doors were several kilometers away at this point, so the light that came through was very small and insignificant, leaving most of the station in total darkness. On the other wall there were three doors evenly spaced across the distance. The central door was the largest, and most likely led to the control room. The two other doors were smaller and might have been offices or some less essential control site. Scott lumbered over to the largest door, not being able to move too fast with the magnetic boots. Once they reached it, he gestured for Varro to help him again. This time, they were able to easily open the door since it was not an airlock door.
The expedition team walked into the control room which was just as dark as anywhere else on this station. Rush looked around, passing his flashlight from console to console. He moved over to a set of terminals along the right wall. It took him a moment to glance over the writing and setup before he spoke. "I should be able to restart the station's generator from here."
"Maybe we should inspect the generator before turning it on," Varro cautioned. "It could be rigged to detonate."
"If the Nati didn't want this station to fall into the wrong hands, I'm sure they would have destroyed it before they left," Rush said snidely, shining his light back at Varro. "I am willing to admit that the circumstances around this station being abandoned here are curious, but the only way I can figure out why that is, is by accessing their main computer. To do that, I need power. I find it highly unlikely that the Nati, a race that we have observed will gladly fire on a ship without a warning, would allow someone to get this far without already trying a dozen times to kill us. So, since we're not dead yet, I see no danger in continuing to explore this outpost." He actually managed to speak mildly and convincingly, which made Varro agree with him and surrender his point.
Scott also agreed with his logic. "Go ahead Rush."
The scientist turned back to the terminal he focused on earlier, and pushed a single button on the terminal. Within a few seconds, that console turned on, the screen lighting up and the buttons glowing as well. It wasn't much light, but it created an atmospheric glow which filled that side of the room. He placed his flashlight on the top of the console, watching it float a few centimeters from the surface before settling back down. The console had an identical layout to the systems he had observed on the insurgent ships, and thankfully he had taken plenty of time to become familiar with their systems. He expertly accessed the command routines and brought up the power systems. The display showed the core that sat at the bottom of this tower in its current inactive state. With a few commands, he brought the core online. A moment later, all the other consoles devoted to the engineering systems turned on. They displayed information on power flow, input and output, distribution, core stability, radiation monitors and other vital data related to the power systems.
Next, Rush moved over to the terminal that controlled the rate of power output and its distribution. "I'm only going to power up the essential systems; life support, gravity, the main computer, just to minimize the chances of any hiccups in the power grid." He slowly increased the power generation of the core up to thirty percent and left it there for the moment.
The first thing that everyone noticed was the sudden return of gravity. With the system restored, they stood firmly on the ground, no longer bobbing after every step. Everyone proceeded to deactivate the magnetic boots. Then they slowly became aware of a hiss throughout the room as the vents began to function and fill the station with air. As that was happening, terminals throughout the room came to life, displaying various bits of data and information. Now that they were surrounded by an atmosphere, they could begin to hear the low drone of the generator and the power that was flowing throughout the command center. The lights on the ceiling flickered to life, showing the size of the command room. It was quite large, close to fifteen meters wide and twenty meters deep, and it widened out towards the front. The walls were lined with terminals, and there were several terminals spaced out in front by the windows which looked onto the dark back half of the station. In addition, there were four columns, much like the cores in the Control Interface Room Destiny throughout the room with four consoles around each of them.
Satisfied the generator was stable and there was enough power in the station for his needs, Rush walked away from the engineering consoles and moved to one of the cores. He sat at a chair by a console and activated a holo-display, checking over the status of the station. "Life support has been restored to the command tower. It'll take a little longer for the rest of the outpost to be inhabitable. But for now, it's safe to remove our gear." He released the locks on his helmet and twisted it off. Setting it on the floor, he continued to work at the console.
Following suit, Varro and Scott took off their helmets. Varro walked around the room, making his way to the front viewports as he looked around for anything. At that time, Scott stood by Rush. "Do you have access to the station's logs?"
"I believe so, but I'll need a bit of time to find them." As he was speaking, the holo-display was sifting through large chunks of data, cluttering the display was lots of information that meant nothing to Scott, but seemed to vaguely interest Rush. "The station is running a diagnostic on its operating status; it might be a few minutes before I can access the database." A map of the star system appeared on the screen, isolating dozens of points of interest in the system. One was the station, and the other was a ship at the star which presumably was Destiny. There were also dozens of dots that were orbiting in various locations throughout the solar system.
"What are those?" Scott inquired, pointing to one dot that was at the trailing edge of the system.
It took Rush a moment to interpret the incoming telemetry. "Communication and surveillance satellites; they must use them to ensure no loss of data sharing in this system. They can see everything in this solar system with this network."
More light began to film the room as large spotlights began to turn on outside in the vacuum of the shipyard. Standing by the window now, Varro gazed out, finally being able to see all that this station had. He could see dozens of the massive columns filling the space throughout the facility, ready to provide damage support to any stricken craft. There were several more transport hubs that connected to the space elevators that became visible. Along the side walls the berths could be fully visible and it revealed over four dozen ships that he could see, all in various stages of completion. However, that wasn't where his most focus eventually centered at. He started wide-eyed at a ship sitting only one kilometer away from the command tower. There was a massive tower on either side of the ship, holding it firmly with dozens of cables and docking ports.
"Lieutenant Scott, Doctor Rush!" Varro called urgently back to his teammates, not taking his eyes off of the craft.
Scott immediately listened and made his way to Varro. Before he was even halfway there he froze and his face contorted into a state of shock. His heart stopped for a moment as he was surprised by what he saw. "What the hell?!" he managed to spit out.
Worried by the reactions of his comrades, Rush rose from his seat and slowly walked around the core so he could have a line of sight to the ship. As soon as he saw it, he swallowed hard and felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck, but he didn't stop walked until he reached the viewport where Varro was standing. "I think this just got a lot more interesting," he finally said, his initial fear now gone.
All three of them stared intently at the ship, its dark grey hull and red highlights out of place in a shipyard full of clean, polished-silver metal. The bulbous nose the Nakai cruiser stared threateningly down on the command tower, with the fat engine section tethered securely to the surrounding towers. It was just as dark and lifeless as the rest of the station, but at this moment, no one was thinking about rest of the station; only this sleeping giant that it held.
The door to the next module groaned loudly as it slid across the floor. As with all the previous rooms the team had explored, the stale air rushed out to greet them. Greer quickly stepped through from the catwalk outside, his rifle raised and searching the chamber. It was a large room with one wide circular platform positioned in the center of the room. The floor of it was darkened glass, and there was a railing that covered the front, left, and right of it. The sides of the room were covered in tubes filled with viscous fluids of varied colors. Several computer terminals were clustered by the pedestal, and more lined the front wall. The back of the room held multiple alcoves; all but two were empty. In the filled slots there were opaque containers that sat securely. There seemed to be an observation room located at the top of the room with a window looking into the chamber. Some of the glass tubes were smashed on the ground and a few lights flickered from the tall ceiling, adding to the uneasy feeling in the room. Satisfied the room was safe, Greer motioned the rest of the team to enter.
Next Eli entered the room and groaned as he looked around the chamber. "Oh look, another lab that researches things we don't understand! How many does that bring it up to?" he asked sarcastically.
"Fourteen," Young answered, also slightly tired of the same pattern. "TJ should be at the checkpoint by now." Noticing the medical trend in this base, he had radioed for her to join them over an hour ago. "I'll go meet her there. Don't go anywhere until I'm back." Greer and James acknowledged his orders and established themselves comfortably in the lab. The Colonel then left the room and backtracked his way to the surface, taking the direct and quick route.
Eli set his Kino to follow over his shoulder as he walked around the room, examining anything of interest. Periodically he looked over to stare into the eye of the Kino. "So we've been down here for at least two or three hours. While on the bright side we haven't found any unhappy, murderous survivors of the apocalypse, we also haven't found anything useful. We've come across over a dozen labs and research modules, but without knowing what the equipment's purpose is we've decided it would be best not to touch anything. However, we are pretty certain my initial suspicion was wrong; these aliens were pretty advanced in the medical field." He set the Kino to fly around the room and closely document as much as possible.
"Why would they have this massive research facility hidden right below a major city though?" Ryder asked, leaning against the wall. "Wouldn't it be more logical to put it in the middle of nowhere?"
"Maybe to us," Chloe started, slowly walking around, looking at the pedestals, "but we really don't know how these aliens think."
"They could've put more thought into this place. Maybe then this city wouldn't be in pieces and they wouldn't be dead," said Greer coldly.
"We don't know they're dead; they could have simply abandoned the city," Chloe continued.
Her speculation was cut short when Eli groaned aloud in disgust from the back of the room, getting everyone's attention. While talking into the Kino, he wasn't carefully watching his step and had walked into a puddle of a slimy, yellow liquid from one of the smashed containers. It surprised him and caused him to slide across the floor a couple of feet. He used a nearby computer terminal by the platform to regain his balance. Without noticing it in the commotion, he had slammed into a few buttons on the terminal. Regaining his balance, he checked his boots. "Damn, that's just nasty."
Everyone had moved to join him, careful to avoid the strange substance this time. "Are you okay, Eli?" Chloe asked him quickly.
Eli lifted his boot up to look at the residue that covered the sole. "Ugh… yeah, but this stench can never be washed off."
"What's that?" Ryder asked, staring at one of the containers sitting inside an alcove. Several lights were now glowing along the surface, and a short puff of exhaust shot out from the bottom of it. A very low light came on inside it and began to shine through the glass faintly; there was discernible patch of darkness sitting in the center of the container.
Curious, Ryder took a couple steps closer, but still keeping a good distance from it. Rapidly, the light reached full intensity and revealed a body inside. After decades of decomposition and deterioration all that was left of the alien was a flimsy skeleton. The features of the alien were threatening as it had large shoulders that didn't sit level with the chest but protruded upwards sharply, giving it a hostile posture. Its head was large compared to the rest of the body and had very wide cheekbones and an elongated skull. Overall, the skeletal remains of the alien were intimidating enough that Ryder gasped loudly with fear and jumped back several steps, finding herself inside the circular platform. She grasped the railings around her tightly as she breathed hard and tried to control her heart rate.
Ready in case the situation turned dangerous, Greer and James had their weapons trained on the stasis tube, but when they saw the tube only contained the remains of an alien, they both lowered their weapons. "We're clear." The second tube activated as his weapon was lowered, presenting the same sight as in the first tube.
"Okay, finally I think we're getting somewhere." Eli controlled the Kino from his remote, moving it to the tube. He had it record footage of as much of the alien as they could see through the glass. "The preservation system must have failed a long time ago. Maybe these tubes were trapped here when the power went out."
James looked at the empty slots for the stasis tubes. "This room was meant to hold six tubes, and it looks like there's a built in system to transport them." As she said that she gestured to a sealed portal at the bottom of the alcoves.
"So there could be more of them? This place might not be as dead as we thought," Ryder said with a mix of awe and fear. She had for the most part recovered from her initial shock, but still clung tightly onto the railing.
Looking around the features of the alcoves and the two tubes, Eli nodded his head. "It's possible; this room wasn't meant to power these cryo-tubes; there's only a small connection for temporary interface purposes. Somehow they got trapped in here and the inhabitants would have died when the system failed. It's likely that there is a storage room somewhere else, and it would have its own independent power source to maintain the tubes."
Noticing that Ryder hadn't moved from the platform and was still slightly disoriented from the fright, Chloe walked up to her. She held her hand out in a friendly gesture. "It's okay Tabitha. Are you feeling alright?"
"Yeah, no I'm actually not bad," she responded as a nervous grin flashed across her face quickly. "I just never did like jump scares."
"Here, there's nothing to worry about," Chloe said, walking into the platform with her hand outstretched. "Just focus on calming your nerves and you'll be just fine."
A moment after Chloe entered the confines of the platform, the floor began to light up. It revealed a significant amount of machinery to be concealed beneath the glass panels. Ryder didn't notice, but Chloe looked down and froze for a moment. Everyone else noticed it as well, but they didn't react in time.
A powerful column of red-orange energy shot out from the floor and encompassed Ryder and Chloe. It was accompanied with a high-pitched whine that resonated from the machinery below the room. The beam seemed to have a consistency similar to jelly; it was transparent but appeared to have some thickness to it. The two occupants could be seen within it, frozen in place. At the same time, almost no light emanated from it. Hundreds of narrow pulses came from the floor panel and went straight up, terminating in a similar panel that was built into the ceiling. These pulses were unaffected when they came in contact with Chloe or Ryder; they just passed right through them.
"Chloe!" Eli exclaimed, rushing towards the beam.
The Sergeant grabbed his arm and held him back. "Wait up; we do not need to get anyone else trapped in that!"
Shrugging Greer off of him, Eli slumped back and stared at Chloe, powerless to help. "Well do you have any bright ideas?" He walked past Greer and approached a large terminal that sat in front of the platform. It was alive with data now that the platform was operating, but Eli couldn't make sense of it. Angrily he kicked the stand of the console and walked off.
They stared, unable to do anything for several minutes before Colonel Young came running in with Lieutenant Johansen at his heels. "I could hear you yelling halfway down the facility. What the hell is going…" he trailed off as he looked at the beam which was currently holding two of his people. "Would someone like to tell me what in the hell just happened?!"
"We're not certain, sir," Greer said. "Some of the machinery started to turn on in here, and it trapped Dr. Ryder and Chloe. They've been in there close to five minutes."
"I can't make any sense of the data," Eli commented from across the room as he paced around in a nervous wreck. "Chloe managed to make a couple of good guesses at what some symbols meant, but there's a pretty big, semantic gap between 'door' and 'super crazy machine that does God knows what'!"
TJ walked forward and stared at the beam, incredibly confounded at the purpose. She looked down at the terminal in front of the machine. "It looks like this machine is taking in a lot of information; this data is coming in ridiculously fast. It could be analyzing their genetic structure, but I don't know why."
The machinery under the floor began to quiet down, and the particles flowing through the beam disappeared quickly. Within a few more seconds, the beam dissolved, and very soon the two occupants were released. They were both in a state of shock, but it wore off quickly. Both of them seemed highly disorientated, but otherwise displayed no signs of having been harmed in anyway.
"Are you two okay?" Young asked, moving to the side of the platform with the gap in the railing. It took Chloe a moment to come to her senses, but she nodded her head in a short, jerking motion. "Come on out of there, before anything else happens."
Chloe grabbed Ryder by the arm and pulled her from the railing. Once she was off of the railing, she fully snapped back to reality and quickly charged away from the platform. TJ caught her as she tried to make her way out of the room. "Hey, you're okay; just calm down."
"What happened to us in there?" she asked after a moment of regulating her breath.
"We really don't know much. The best I can figure, it took a detailed scan of your genetic makeup," TJ explained, releasing Ryder as she seemed calmer. "What do you remember?"
Ryder turned to look back at the platform, and seemed significantly calmer. "At first, I was trapped, unable to move. Then I realized I couldn't feel my body. I was completely numb-"
"-almost at peace," Chloe interrupted, her expression also reflecting a great calm. "Then towards the end, it felt like being in a warm shower-"
"-like a giant wave just passing through every cell in my body. And then it was over," she said with a hint of melancholy.
"Yeah, every sense came rushing back to life; just like that the numbness was gone. I could hear, feel, and smell. It was so fast that it just startled me," Chloe finished, looking across to Eli who was staring agape at her.
Young looked them over hard for a moment, stunned at their reaction to the situation. Finally, he loosened up and nodded. "Well I'm just glad you're doing alright. Maybe that's enough adventure though; I think it might be time we head back to Destiny."
"I could not agree with you more," Eli chirped enthusiastically. "I'm done with this place." He recalled the Kino and set it to fly ahead of him this time.
"Come on, let's get you back and make sure you're okay," Young said, gesturing Chloe and Ryder to leave. TJ went first and the rest of the military took up the rear.
As soon as they were on the catwalk, yet another set of quick chirps sounded. This time, a module below them was elevated by the pistons holding it up. Within a few moments it was on the same level as the catwalk, and magnetically connected itself to an open section in railing about ten meters ahead of them. The module came to life with lights covering the exterior, and a low drone could be heard. The bottom had wide pipes covering it which were left open. With a groan, a collection of pipes slid out from a track beneath the catwalk and aligned itself with the open ends of the module's pipes. They bolted together and very soon a sloshing sound could be heard as some liquid began passing through it.
The team watched this happen in silence from just outside the module they were in a minute ago. It all happened very quickly, and it ended with the door to the module opening.
"Why do I get the feeling we're going to investigate the creepy chamber?" Eli asked from the middle of the group.
"It can't be a pure coincidence that this happens right after that device scanned Chloe and Tabitha," TJ said, vocalizing everyone's thoughts. "Let's just take a quick look; it might give us a few answers."
Young nodded and made his way to the head of the group, past an objecting Eli. "If that beam did something to them, then we have a responsibility to find out what." He walked up to the module's entrance and walked into the large room. The rest of the team was right behind him, with the Kino floating above Eli's head.
This module was very spacious, much like all the others. There was one cluster of computer terminals situated at the far end of the room in a semicircular setup. It seemed designed to put focus on the center of the room which was very appropriate. In the center there was a large above ground vat which was at the moment completely empty. The floor and walls were covered in injectors, needles, and what looked like water jets. Sitting above it was a large machine that was connected to many tubes and had vials all over it. It was the machine that was producing the droning sound.
Eli and TJ made their way to the control area in the back of the room while the rest of the team stared into the empty vat. The terminals were spitting out data at incredibly fast rates and the computers were processing the information as it came in. "I can't make heads or tails of this," Eli stated after a couple moments of observation. "I mean, some kind of program is being executed, but I couldn't guess what it is doing."
A clinging sound dimly resonated through the pipes, and a moment later a green colored liquid began pouring into the vat. Having multiple spouts filling the vat, it only took about a minute until it was three-quarters full, at which point the pipes shut off.
"Okay, the self-automation in this place is really starting to freak me out," Eli commented with his arms crossed as he gave up reading the consoles. "Maybe they can do something useful like fix me up lunch?"
The machine above the vat suddenly went quiet as a duo of chirps emanated from the console. A small rod descended from the center of the machine until it was a few centimeters above the surface of the liquid. It released a drop of clear colored liquid and immediately retracted itself to the machine. The instant the drop hit the liquid in the vat a chemical reaction began to occur. The liquid quickly began to boil, and the room was filled with a mildly offensive odor. Various jets along the side of the vat set to work and began dispensing other compounds into the vat. Within seconds, physical clumps could be seen forming on the bottom of the vat. They were small strands of white fiber that adhered to each other when the jets threw them into each other.
Incredibly interested, TJ walked right up to the edge of the vat. "I could be wrong, but I think that this device is engineering some kind of living organism. The technological and medical knowledge needed to do this is amazing." She continued to stare at the forming clumps in awe.
"What is it making?" Young asked promptly.
"I have no clue," she admitted, looking up to Young, "but if they can grow the tissue this fast, we won't have to wait long to find out."
"Rush, what the hell is that ship doing here?" Scott demanded from the scientist as he followed him back to a core terminal with the active holo-display.
Sitting back down at the same station, Rush began to query the station's logs. "Right now I know just as much about the situation as you do. So if you could give me a moment, I can find the answers we both want."
Sighed loudly, the Lieutenant nodded and took a step back, gazing back out of the window. "I knew we were going to run into those bastards again, but I didn't expect it to be under these circumstances."
"If it makes you feel any better, it's just their ship," Rush said, reading from the holo-display which had a schematic of the ship and a lot of text to accompany it. "No survivors were found on board."
"Wait, you're saying the Nati found this ship?" Varro asked, joining his teammates back at the core.
"Yes, nearly twenty-six years ago. This ship would have been a part of the original task force sent out to locate Destiny," Rush answered. He skimmed through a great deal of technical details and tapped several buttons to focus on the schematics.
Varro frowned when he heard that information. "I thought the first contact the Nati had with them was two years ago. That's what Tarym told Chloe anyways."
No answer came from Rush for a minute as he read several pages of text, both on the ship and the operational logs of this outpost. "In that case, may I be the bearer of the shocking news that Tarym was lying. It seems that the information he told Chloe is the official story the Nati release to the public about their contact with the Nakai. In reality, they found this ship adrift over two decades ago, and have been studying it ever since. Hiding the accidental discovery of an alien ship is easier to hide than an open conflict."
"Are we in any danger?" Scott worriedly asked. "Can it send a signal to their fleet?"
"No, according to these records, that ship was in terrible condition when it was discovered." Rush isolated a section of the logs and expanded it. There was a diagram which displayed the damage to the cruiser. "The ship seems to have suffered a failure in their hyperdrive engines. According to the best analysis of the ship's logs, the core went critical and dropped the ship out of hyperspace without warning; instabilities throughout the system crippled the ship and when the core's shielding was lost the crew was exposed to lethal levels of radiation. The survivors managed to deactivate the core, but the damage was too severe, and they were already dying. Without an active drive core or main computer, the cruiser couldn't send out a distress call. The rest of the task force probably couldn't find them and decided they needed to continue on to find Destiny."
Shaking his head grimly, Varro stared at the ship with sympathy. "I know they've mostly made our lives difficult, but that's no way for anyone to go out."
Rush ignored the comment and went on with the logs. "A Nati planetary survey ship found the derelict cruiser in this star system and their leadership decided they would study the ship in secret. So they towed the ship into orbit and constructed this base around it."
"Wait, you're saying the point of this station was to hold that ship in place?" Scott asked incredulously. "I guess they really wanted to make a big deal out of it."
"Well they couldn't move the ship through hyperspace to another research outpost. The damage to the hull was too severe, and it was too dangerous to active the ship's drive; in its condition it's liable to detonate," Rush explained. "The only other alternative was to keep the ship here."
"I guess they got they're monies' worth out of it. That hunter ship is a real pain with their augmented technology." Scott paced around the room thinking about the situation. "How much do you think they learned from that ship?"
The scientist shrugged as he skimmed over dozens of logs, looking for anything interesting. "Without any of the surviving aliens to interrogate, they spent the first decade just building this facility around it. They tinkered for the next decade and managed to replicate some of the weapon technologies, repair outstanding hull breaches. It took them a while to patch their own generators to power the ship, because they couldn't risk activating the core. The most research came out of the last two years once they were able to interrogate captives from the three scout ships and learn their language and systems."
At this point Varro sighed with frustration and looked urgently to Rush. "All this tells us is that this was a prominent station for the Nati military. They could conduct secret research and develop incredibly powerful warships. So why did they leave?!"
Rush groaned quietly in frustration as he was annoyed of the barrage of questions. He looked to the most recent operations log. It was a few seconds before he dropped his frustration and became gravely concerned. "They left because this facility was in the path of a rogue asteroid."
Everyone paused for a moment and forgot about the cruiser. "But this station is massive. It has powerful defenses and there was a fleet here to guard it," Scott argued.
"And none of that would make a difference," Rush said slowly. He switched the holo-display to show the asteroid and its projected course. The misshapen lump of rock and metal was nearly four times the size of the outpost and there was a significant field of small chunks flying in front of it. "No amount of conventional energy weapons could stop that thing and the Nati lacked any fissionable material or powerful explosives to deflect the object. So they took whatever ships and resources they could and fled the system. The decision was also made since this outpost was too far out from the heart of the empire where most of the internal fighting is going on."
"How long ago did that happen?" Varro asked.
"The last log entry is dated sixteen days ago. Once they detected the asteroid they tried to plan a way to save their outpost. But they realized they had nothing, so they took every completed ship and left." He played an existing simulation in the database. The asteroid slowly collided with the station and a part of the moon. The outpost is totally destroyed and the remnants are sent hurtling to the planet with the asteroid right behind. "Projections indicated that the planetary impact would be disastrous. There would be an ice age that would render this planet totally uninhabitable."
Scratching his head, Varro nodded agreeably. "I suppose for once they actually did something makes sense."
A terrifying thought popped into Scott's head as he walked back urgently to Rush. "You said a planetary survey ship found the derelict. That means they were originally sent to study the planets here. Did they find any life?"
Rush understood his concern and once again searched through the logs. His search was over very quickly. "Yes," he said quietly. "This outpost has a monitoring station which studied the intelligent species on the planet below." The scientist paused as he closely read the details on the species. "Their level of development is close to the Iron Age, with a population of nearly one hundred fifty million spread across the planet."
"And that asteroid will kill them all, won't it?"
"Not at once, but the crust of the planet is thinner than most. The impact would release tremendous amounts of magma and sulfur dioxide," Rush said with the cold detachment he was well practiced in. "Within several years, the atmosphere will be too toxic for any living thing to survive."
"How long do we have until the asteroid impacts the station?" Scott asked.
He referred to the projection once more. "The actual asteroid is still two days away from impact. But the debris field in front of the asteroid will begin to hit the station within the next eleven hours. It's nothing that the hull can't handle, but it could make our escape problematic. I can most likely recover enough of the logs in an hour and we can leave well before the field hits."
"Wait a second, you just want to leave?!" Scott shouted incredulously. He stood in front of the console and stared straight at the scientist. "What about the people on that planet?"
"What about them?" he returned, setting out to copy as much of the database to an external drive in the console. The display showed the rapid transfer of data.
"So you're gonna act just like the Nati? Turn around and run away when things get dangerous without a single thought about what you can do to help others?!"
Rush sighed loudly and gave Scott a dark look. "I've haven't even been here for an hour; the Nati looked for a solution for days before they left! What do you expect from me?"
"I expect you to be the genius you usually are that gets people out of desperate situations!" he yelled back.
Both of them glared at each other in silence. Scott eased up first and took a step back, nodding apologetically. Rush leaned his elbow onto the console and scratched his beard as he watched the transfer. "I would do something if I could," he said mildly, "but I have nothing to work with. The Nati took everything operational with them."
"What about that cruiser?" Varro asked, standing by the window again.
The scientist shrugged off the suggestion. "The main weapon on that ship would be just as ineffective as the defenses on this outpost."
"What about using the ship itself as the weapon?" Varro made his way back up to the core. "You already said that the drive core is in danger of going critical. I don't know what is powering that ship, but I get the feeling a core meltdown would make a hell of an explosion."
"He's right," Scott said, siding with him. "If we could get the cruiser alongside the asteroid while it's far enough from the planet, the detonation would only need to shift the course of the asteroid by a few degrees to be able to miss the planet and the outpost."
Rush ran his hands through his hair and sat back in his seat, thinking about it. "There're two problems I see with this plan. One, is that debris field might be too much for this ship; its condition is incredibly fragile even with the hull patches the Nati made. That field is extremely large, so going around for safety will cost us time. Second, and most importantly, there's no way to power up the ship without turning on the core, and that would expose us to significant amounts of lethal radiation." Scott and Varro both gave him discouraged looks as they walked off to think on their own. He let out an exasperated sigh. "But it is possible."
Scott turned back around and gave him a wide smile. "I had a feeling you'd say that."
"According to the scans from the researchers the core would destabilize, in their own words 'violently', if the ship attempted a jump to hyperspace. I can use the Nati generators to power the sublight drive, thereby limiting the time the core needs to be active," Rush said, looking through the schematic on the remains of the ship. Multiple areas in the aft quarter were highlighted in a dull red. "The Nati did secure most of the hull breaches; if I can restore partial shields I suspect we can survive the debris field, as long as I steer the ship away from any dense portions of the field. As for the radiation, these suits should absorb the worst of it." He pulled the drive from the bottom of the console and set the console to relay the rest of the database remotely to the shuttle. Below it he found a slot that held a Nati tablet. Out of curiosity, he took that as well and turned it on, inserting the data drive into a slot on the side. It lit up to show a schematic of the Nakai cruiser. "Come on, if we want to make this work we need to get to work at once. I need to get into that tower first," he said pointing to one of the large columns that held the cruiser in place. "I'll need to transfer dock control to the cruiser and begin a power transfer to the Nati generators. It'll take a while."
The three men grabbed all of their equipment and made their way back to their shuttle, now with the station fully operational and lit.
Young stood leaning against the railing of the catwalk, looking on the massive underground complex. It was quiet and inactive in most parts; only the few modules they had disturbed showed signs of life. After Young had been out on his own for a while, Eli walked out of the module with the chemical vat and stood next to him in silence. "This place is a warning," Young finally said after a long time. "Whatever these people did, we should make sure we never do it."
"Yeah well, I think we may have made some progress on figuring that out," he said solemnly, leaning against the railing beside the Colonel. "It's hard to know for certain, but we've pieced a bunch of things together from the purpose of this place and a few symbols Chloe deciphered."
"What do you have?"
The scientist sighed and looked forward, matching his gaze with Young's. "The best we can figure, the aliens here were losing the war with their enemies; they just weren't bred to fight. So they started a eugenics campaign here. They would take two people that had been specifically selected; one with exceptional physical traits, and another with advanced mental abilities. In essence they literally bonded brains with brawns. That chemical pool in there is creating a full blown organism from one of their genetic templates using organic materials stored here and a level of biological engineering none of us can comprehend. Once the body is grown, it'll upload the consciousness and we'll have… something to deal with."
"Best of both worlds; I bet that helped them in their war effort," Young commented with half-hearted interest.
"Not only that but it allowed them to grow fully trained soldiers in almost no time at all. I mean, it's only been about ten hours, and that thing looks like it's almost done." He turned to face Young directly as he betrayed his disgust. "You haven't heard the creepiest part though. Do you wanna know where they got all of the organic material?"
"How about you just tell me?"
"Well, you noticed how come we never found a single body in the city?" he continued in an animated description of what he learned. "It turns out, that every single victim of the war, either friend or foe, was taken to another plant here and liquefied. They had all of their essential building blocks broken down and separated into nice, separated containers. Some proteins here, fatty acids over there, and a splash of carbohydrates in the next vat. This whole place was just to recycle people and build new soldiers," he said with a shiver going down his spine as he expounded on the process.
Young looked towards Eli, furrowing his brow in near horror. He pushed off the railing and paced down the catwalk. "I suppose in the long run, they thought it was their best chance in winning the war."
"Maybe, all we can figure out is that this city was attacked during the war, and this facility allowed every single casualty out there to be recycled." Eli followed Young as he slowly walked down the catwalk. "At a certain point, we think they stopped looking for new subjects. They just found one template they liked and kept making more of the same. For one reason or another, this place was shut down. I'd like to think that they realized this place was crazy."
They walked further along in silence, starting to get closer to an unexplored area so they turned back finally. "How far along is… whatever that thing is?"
Eli shrugged, sticking his hands into his pockets as it was getting colder in the facility. "A significant amount of the internal tissue is done. The skeletal frame is complete and the muscles were developing last I looked. The form was humanoid, but it didn't exactly look familiar."
"Maybe the system didn't recognize the human anatomy," Young guessed. "It could mess up the template."
"It's possible. Also, I have no idea how long it's been since this tech was active. It could be faulty by now." He turned to Young, as if though to speak, then stopped himself. A moment later he spoke again, but it seemed a bit awkward. "I was pretty impressed by how useful Chloe has been. Usually her archaeology can be mildly helpful, but combined with that Nakai mental super-boost she just picks up on so many things I over look. She pieced together most of the history here."
"I know. Sometimes it worries me a bit, but ever since those aliens cured her, she's been in control of herself." Young stopped walking and gave Eli a stern look. "What's on your mind? Is something bothering you?"
He scoffed in response and turned around to face the railing. After looking back out for a few seconds, he looked back to Young. At first he spoke nervously. "Well… I just was thinking about what this place is and what it can do… and…" He took in a deep breath and spat out the rest of his thoughts. "What if we could use this place to bring Ginn back?"
Young stared in disbelief at him. "I don't think that's a good idea."
"I'm not disagreeing with you," he said quickly, defending his point. "I don't even know how I would develop the interface with her memory storage or find someone willing to have their body duplicated. But, I just started thinking, you know? And now I can't get the idea out of my head; that just maybe it would work." Disheartened, he leaned back against the railing and stared at the floor.
Sighing, Young took a step forward and firmly grabbed Eli's shoulders. "Your heart is in the right place Eli. If we were experts in this technology and we knew there were no problems down the road, I'd probably be right on board with you. There are just too many unknowns, so don't weigh yourself down with this decision," he asked in a compassionate voice, holding Eli straight up and looking him dead in the eye. The young man was thinking everything over, his face contorted as his emotions were struggling with his common sense.
Before they could continue their conversation, James, came bolting from the door of the module. They had walked over thirty meters away without realizing it, so she yelled loudly towards them once she saw them. "Colonel Young! Eli! Get back here quick!"
"Are you going to be okay?" he asked, making sure he had resolved the issue, at least for the moment. Eli shook off the thought and gave the Colonel a thankful nod. Glad that Eli had put his dilemma past him, he patted him on the shoulder and the started jogging back. They reached the module quickly and looked around for the emergency.
Chloe stood by the edge of the vat, staring relentlessly at the creature which Young couldn't see at the moment. Greer had his weapon raised as he watched from the other side of the vat with Dr. Ryder standing a safe distance behind him. The stunned expression of TJ's face stared blankly at Young. "I… the… the epidermal layer just started forming. That's when we began to recognize it." She turned to look back at the creature.
Eli took a few steps forward and stood at the edge, next to Chloe. His expression went from slightly conflicted to pure shock. "What the…?"
Inside the vat, the water had mostly settled and drained as the organism had consumed the majority of the chemical bath in forming itself. Now, a long, skinny creature sat at the bottom of the tank, its blue skin covering its body. The creature looked like a hybrid between a human and a Nakai, and a frightening one at that. It had the overall shape of a Nakai, while the skin was rougher and the extremities were bulkier, following after human dimensions. Instead of having the fish-like characteristics of a normal Nakai, this hybrid more closely resembled an alligator as the skin was coarse and had small, sharp ridges running all along its body. All of these distinctions working together managed to elicit a feeling of fear in everyone.
Young jumped up and walked halfway to the door before stopped and looking back. "How the hell did that thing end up in there?!" he demanded.
From the edge of the tank, Chloe's hoarse voice carried the answer. "The device selected the dominant genetic pattern. While the Nakai removed the active pathogen, some of it clearly still existed in my body, maybe as a latent marker. Clearly the end goal of the pathogen was to have me end up as this… hybrid creature, and so the machine created that."
"And it used that template to actually make one of them," Eli said, his eyes bulging as he thought about this.
"Do you want me to take the shot, sir?" Greer asked, aiming the barrel of his rifle right at the Nakai hybrid's head.
"Colonel!" Ryder objected, walking up to him. "That creature isn't even alive yet. It has no consciousness, and is being sustained by that machinery. Right now it's no more our enemy than the civilization that existed here."
Greer argued back without taking his eyes off of his target. "Sir, with all due respect, I'd rather not wait around until it learns it's supposed to be our enemy."
"I think it's done," TJ said, noticing that the vat was completely dry now. Another double chirp came from the computer and she ran back to investigate. "I'm guessing that means they're starting the final stage."
"That's the part where it incorporates the mental patterns of one of you two?" Young asked for confirmation.
Eli nodded, joining TJ at the computers. "I'm assuming since it selected Chloe for the genetic patterns, it'll use Tabitha for the cognitive component."
"Is there any chance that it could be friendly in that case?" Ryder queried, using the word loosely. "I mean… if it has my thoughts and memories, shouldn't it know what side it's on?"
"I don't think so," TJ said quickly. "Look what the Nakai virus did the Chloe before. If this organism was made from the inactive remnants of that pathogen, then it could take over the cognitive area of this creature. With the accelerated growth of the tissue, the pathogen could be voracious and take over immediately. It might have your memories and knowledge, but the pathogen would be making the decisions for you."
"All the more reason we shouldn't risk it, sir." The Sergeant didn't move his weapon away from the alien, but also waited for his superior to give the order first.
Young raised his hand, ready to gesture to Greer to fire, but as he was doing that, the floor of the tank opened up and dropped the creature into a pod that was situated below it. The interior of the pod was covered in a soft cushion that cradled the alien. With the creature inside, a glass cover slid over the pod and a set of restraints slid over the alien.
Everyone was leaning over the edge of the vat at this point so they could see what was happening. Following the half given order from the Colonel, Greer fired one shot at the cover, hoping to penetrate it and shoot the alien in the head. Instead, the bullet bounced right off the surface and proceeded to ricochet around the room.
"Hold your fire!" Young shouted, noticing that the bullet didn't even leave a scratch. He waved to James and gestured for her to use the Nati rifle. Nodding, she fired a trio of shots from it, and still nothing happened.
Before he could give another order, electrodes extended from the walls of the pod and connected to the temples of the alien. A set of chirps came from the computers as they shot to life and sent a low level charge into the hybrid's brain. The restraints did their best to hold the creature in place, but it still squirmed as the electricity flowed through the electrodes.
The process was completed in a matter of seconds, and the electrodes detached from the alien and returned to their slots in the pod's wall. Immediately, the hybrid opened its eyes, staring up with its fast moving, jittery eyes. Realizing it was trapped in a small pod, it began to struggle against its shackles, but to no avail. Blinking rapidly, it looked past the transparent cover and saw the ring of humans watching it closely. The creature emitted a low growl, its large, black eyes glaring menacingly at all of them.
Then, with little warning, the pod shook as it loosened itself from the module. There was a track located below this module, and it quickly whisked the pod away from them. A moment later a fresh, empty pod took its place, and the floor closed.
"Eli, where does that go?!" Young barked, pushing off from the edge of the tank and rushing out of the module.
"I don't know the layout of this place! These tubes go to all over the place." He spread his arms wide in all directions to further explain his point.
Chloe went to follow the Colonel, an urgent expression on her face. "It'll take the alien to the checkpoint on the surface. The soldiers were meant to be deployed immediately once they were done." She spoke with a cold confidence at the matter, her eyes asking him to trust her.
He nodded in response. "Alright, double time it back to the surface." He took point, running through the facility back tracking his way to the security checkpoint. Greer caught up with him quickly, while James stayed at the end of the group to keep an eye on the slower civilians.
After several minutes of running across catwalks, through modules, and up stairs, Young reached ground level. He raised his rifle and panned across the hallway. The first thing he noticed was that the door at the end of the hallway was unlocked. Inside this now opened room Young could see a few empty alcoves along the wall, shelves with what looked like military gear and weapons, and one open pod. The hybrid was nowhere to be seen, but it seemed clear to him that it had been here.
He waited in silence for the rest of his team to catch up with him. "Did you find it?" Eli asked, catching his breath.
"No, it had too much of a head start over us," Young said, panting only a little bit. "It probably grabbed some equipment and is putting as much distance between itself and us as possible."
"It's going to go the Stargate," Chloe managed to say between breaths. "If the pathogen has taken over its mind, then its only goal will be to get back to its people. Getting off this planet will be the beginning. Even without a dialing remote, it'll find some way to get off." She spoke with a deep knowledge, uncomfortably dredging up the few bits of her past experience she could remember.
Young looked over urgently to TJ. "Do we still have a team by the 'Gate?"
"No, they went back to Destiny when I came here; they found enough food and didn't want to stay until we were sure it was safe," she replied quickly, squinting as the sun was rising over the horizon, casting a bright light into the corridor.
"I guess we found out the answer to that," said Greer under his breath.
Sighing loudly, Young readied his weapon and walked outside into the warmth of the sun. "Eli, dial Destiny; we need to secure a defensive perimeter around the 'Gate if it tries to leave."
Complying with his order, he raised the Kino remote and tried to reach the dialing controls. Instead, he was met with a flashing red bar across the screen. "Whoa whoa whoa… I can't connect with the Stargate."
"What do you mean?" Young asked stiffly.
"Something is jamming the signal." He angrily shook the remote and then walked out of the building, clearing the metal structure. Still he had no success. "The alien must have activated up some kind of full spectrum jamming device. It probably is blanketing the whole city." Disgruntled he walked back into the compound.
The Colonel swore and looked around as he thought. His gaze eventually landed on the Kino. "Can you still control that? At the least we might be able to find where it is."
He looked back to the remote and tried to control the Kino. It flew out the door, but after it went about ten meters out the video feed was disconnected and the camera stopped moving. "Dammit, it'll only work in a close proximity."
"Maybe we should find the source of the interference," James suggested, poking her head into the control room. "If we can shut it down we can track him again."
"We'd have the same problem we've been having all day," Eli complained, recalling the Kino and putting it and the remote in his backpack. "This technology still barely makes any sense to us. I don't know what to look for, so I can't turn it off!"
Greer shuffled around in the hallway. "How about you just shut down the whole place, same way you turned it on?"
As Eli was shaking his head in approval, James groaned aloud. "Yeah, there might be an issue with that idea." Everyone walked into the control room as she was staring at the console that had Eli used to activate the facility. The level was snapped off and the entire surface of the panel was covered in scorch marks. It sizzled as the damage was fresh; the metal and exposed wiring was hot and sent sparks flying across the room. "I get the feeling it doesn't want this place getting shut down."
"Alright, that's enough of this," Young announced resolutely, marching out of the facility. "We don't have any more time to waste trying to figure this out. Hopefully if we get far enough away, the interference will clear." He raised his weapon and led the way out into the daylight with the rest of the team following. "Let's hurry; I don't want to let that bastard get away."
Varro pointed his flashlight done the wide corridor of the Nakai cruiser. The halls never went on for long without taking another turn, which made navigation a bit confusing. Thankfully, the floor was polished and pretty reflective, so the small light from the flashlight went a long way. Rush kept his focus on the tablet which he was using to help guide himself though the ship. "Where do we go from here?" Varro asked.
"The Nati engineering crew identified an operations center just a bit further down to the left," he said, interpreting the blueprint and associated data. "I believe they set up an interface with the outpost's central computer. Once we can get partial power restored, I should be able to access the database and sensors."
They turned the corner and proceeded heading left. This hallway was longer, and had a cluster of Nati terminals sitting outside one of the doors. Wires from the terminals ran all along the floor and through open panels in the walls.
Rush activated the comm system on his suit. "Lieutenant Scott, we're approaching the ops center now; stand by."
"Understood," he replied from onboard the shuttle. He stayed behind so they could affect a speedy escape as soon as needed.
Passing by the Nati consoles, Rush paused and gave them a thorough examination. "Good, the power transfer was successful," he said, tapping a key that woke the terminal from its inactivity. The display illuminated part of the hall and showed data on the generators. He placed the tablet down on the floor and focused on the terminal. "Lieutenant, I'm bringing the generators back online."
After inputting a short command sequence, one of the portable generators near the console light up and began glowing brightly. Before long, it supplied power to the adjacent area and the lights came on, dimly illuminating the corridor. The light panels that adorned the door also lit up. Several glass cylinders became visible lining the corridor, and water began to bubble through them. The crystals that surrounded the bottom of the tubes gave the apparatuses an icy appearance. At the opposite end of the hall there was a water filled cylinder with a single, thin Nakai console that was slowly coming to life. On the terminal's screen, Rush saw over a dozen other emergency generators spread across the ship activate as well.
"I've left the life support system disabled," he said as he picked up his tablet from the ground. "We won't have a need for it, and we'll need every watt to power the engines and shields."
He approached the door to the ops center and tapped a button on the side. The door silently slid open, revealing a modest room. There was a short extension of the hallway that continued past the door which ended on two water tanks, one on either end. After that, it expanded into a room no larger than the whole of the shuttle's floor space. The walls were made from long, thin vertical panels, and there were several circular panels that stuck out with a glowing red center spaced equally throughout the room. At all three walls of the room, there were trapezoidal consoles with their crystals and touch panels emitting a dull blue light.
"Not very roomy," Varro commented as Rush made his way to the console at the end of the room.
"Not all species require vast space to work in," Rush replied, setting his tablet on the ground again. "From my experience, these aliens get by without many interfaces or large rooms." He looked over the alien console for a moment and proceeded to activate the holographic screen. A blue oval fizzed to life over the console, flickering lightly occasionally.
Varro gazed at the data scrolling in the Nakai language on the screen. "Do you even understand any of that?"
"A good deal of it," the scientist admitted casually. "When Chloe was under the influence of the Nakai pathogen, she wrote extensive journals using Ancient and their language. Together, the two of us have managed to reach a working knowledge of the language."
The screen had a lengthy menu appear, the curvy text of the Nakai text filling up the screen. Rush selected one of the options and a diagram filled the right part of the screen, with more text on the left. "Good, the generators are properly tied into the main power grid," Rush noted optimistically. "Redirecting the needed power to the sublight drive should be fairly easy, but we should save that for the last minute."
He left the screen active in the engineering system and walked out of the room. "What are you doing?" Varro asked, following him out.
Rush stepped in front of the Nati console and began typing away expertly on the keys. "In order for our plan to work, I will need to plot a precise course that will allow us to avoid the majority of the debris field. Then I need to align the ship to collide with the asteroid at the right location, angle, and velocity. We can't just blow the ship up; it's needs to be a precise hit. To do all of that, we need sensors."
"You're going to use the outpost's sensor array?"
"Aye, it's significantly more powerful, and we can relay all of the telemetry through the Nati interface straight into the cruiser's computer." He worked for a few more seconds, and then the console flashed, indicating the task was completed successfully. "Good, we should have access to the outpost's entire sensor network."
The communicator in Varro's suit beeped as they made their way back into the room. "Hey, would either of you guys mind updating me?"
"Dr. Rush is prepping the cruiser for launch right now," Varro answered as he watched Rush scurry over to the console at the right side of the room and activate its screen. "Right now he's syncing the station's external sensors with the cruiser."
"Roger," Scott said. He let the line go to static for a moment, and then it came back as he remembered something. "Oh, while he's at it, maybe he can get the comms working. You know, let Destiny know what we found and not to get scared when it starts flying through the solar system?"
Chuckling at the request, Varro nodded and made his way up to Rush. "Did you catch that Rush?"
"I did; that should be easy enough, and I suspect the communication satellites in this star system will allow us to get the message to Destiny." With only a moment of tinkering, the screen showed the same map of the solar system as they had seen in the outpost's control center. The dot representing Destiny was now on the far side of the star, slowly gliding away. "I've successfully patched in the communication grid."
As soon as the computer had real time access to the grid, a flashing symbol appeared on the screen and dominated over the other data. "That doesn't look good," Varro commented.
"What do you mean; what's happening?" Scott asked as the comm line was still active. "Rush?"
"Hang on." He tapped on a corresponding key on the console that was flashing. The communication map dissolved from the screen, and a short string of text replaced it. Below it, a few rows of additional text filled in. "The communication net is detecting a distress call being carried on a subspace channel."
Worried, Varro walked up and looked gravely at the line of foreign text. "Is it from Destiny?"
Rush shook his head in reply. "No, but… this is strange. I recognize the carrier wave; it's the same one used by the Stargates for their subspace network." He paused and doubled checked his readings, scrutinizing the wave shown on the screen. "Only… the frequency has been modulated to match a Nakai emergency frequency. The message is short; it just says 'help'."
"They're using a Stargate to send out a distress call? Wow, they must be in trouble if they can't use their own technology," Varro surmised.
"Well he shouldn't count on us caring about that," Scott said over the radio with a small chuckle.
In an instant, Rush seized up in great worry. "Oh no," he muttered, his gaze fixated on a familiar piece of data on the screen. Before he allowed anyone to ask him what the matter was, he pointed to a string of seven characters; each was made from line, circles, and curved components. "That's the 'Gate sequence for the planet Colonel Young is on."
"What?!" Varro and Scott exclaimed in unison.
"The Nakai are aware of our presence in this galaxy. We have to assume that they have ships in this sector that can detect this signal and be at that planet very quickly," Rush spat out in a panic.
Rush stood still in front of the console, looking at the message. Finally Varro grabbed him by the shoulder and gave him a shake. "Hey, we need to warn the Colonel. Send a message to Destiny so they can pass it on."
Nodding, the doctor navigated back to the communication menu and set to work establishing a channel. "Right."
"And then we get this bird out of the nest," Scott said, the comm unit picking up a bit up static. "I don't know about you guys, but I'm getting just a bit sick of being here."
Young was jogging along the river bank, making his way back to the 'Gate. Without Kino support, they chose to follow their same route back so as not to get lost. The military personnel were with him while the civilians were behind by a short distance.
The ruined city was a good distance behind them before Young's radio squawked to life, heavy static filling the line at first. "… please …ond… onel Young. Can … ead me?"
"We must be almost out of jamming range," Eli called from a short distance behind the Colonel.
He continued on for a short stretch further and called for everyone to stop. Quickly, he grabbed his radio. "This is Colonel Young, go ahead."
Finally the line was clear enough for Brody's concerned voice to be heard. "Colonel, thank God you're there. We've been trying to get a hold of you for the last few minutes. We were starting to think the worst."
"Sorry about that," he said as the group gathered around him and continued walking along the shore. By this time the sun was raising high in the sky, fully illuminating the environment. "Unfortunately we've run into a problem over here. Long story short, there is a hostile Nakai on this planet and we think it's trying to get offworld."
Brody continued unimpeded after that. "We know, that's why we've been trying to reach you."
Hearing that, Young stopped and frowned in puzzlement. "How could you know about that?"
"Rush found a Nakai cruiser in that outpost he went to investigate," he quickly, trying not to draw out the suspense. Young and everyone on the team tensed up but the scientist continued. "I don't know what it's doing their either; we'll find out when Rush briefs us. Anyways, he picked up a Nakai distress call coming from your planet being broadcasted by the Stargate."
"Holy crap, how did it get there so fast?" Eli exclaimed.
"We did establish that the transfer gave the alien an understanding of the technology here. It's only logical to assume there would be information on the terrain and best travel paths as well," surmised Ryder, taking the opportunity to splash some cold water on her face as the day was getting hot.
"Brody, we're still about fifteen minutes away from the 'Gate," the Colonel said, resuming his fast walk along the shore. "Did you deploy a Kino to the planet?"
There was a pause for a few seconds before he returned. "I had one of standby; it's going through now." The team continued onward as they waited for his answer. "The area around the 'Gate is clear. I can see where the alien tampered with the 'Gate controls, but there's no sign of any life right now."
"Fine, in that case send an armed team over and have them secure the immediate area around the Stargate. We'll meet them there, Young out." Now faced with more dire circumstances, he broke out into a run again, everyone matching pace with him.
Milling around the ops center, Rush was concluding his pre-flight check. All three of the stations were active at the moment. The front screen displayed a tactical overlay of the cruiser sitting in the station. On the right screen there showed crucial data from the sensor network and on the left the screen was populated with information on the engines. Rush was currently at the engineering station.
"How's it coming?" Varro asked, standing up against the wall, slightly bored as he had nothing to do but watch the scientist scurry from console to console.
"Just another minute or two; one of the engines is running a purge of the system. We'll be able to leave once that is done." He back away from the console satisfied he had done everything necessary. "I need to decouple the docking clamps holding this ship in place." Following that announcement, he walked back into the hallway where the Nati interface was set up. It took Rush only a few moments to input the appropriate commands. Several loud clunks echoed through the bulkheads of the ship and the deck jostled as the cruiser was freed from its bonds. "That's it, we're clear to move."
"Glad to hear it," Scott mumbled over the comm line. "The sooner this is over, the better; sitting in a bay full of these fighters is starting to get uncomfortable."
Once the doctor was back in the room, he glanced back at the engineering screen. A bright red flash from the sensor station made him snap around.
The warning also caught Varro's attention. On the screen, the outpost was suddenly highlighted in a pulsating red glow, with text superimposed. "That doesn't look good."
"The debris field is here," Rush answered calmly, closing down the warning. "We're in no immediate danger; the outpost's hull will survive." He quickly moved to the fore console and tapped a set of buttons. A text message popped up which frustrated him. "Dammit, I can't raise the shields. The sublight engines required more power than I anticipated."
"You said this ship is pretty unstable; can it survive the field without shields?" Scott asked.
Rush paced around a moment before answered. "I don't think so," he admitted, grabbing onto the console and leaning on it. "I'll have to bring the ship's primary drive core online," Rush said after a brief internal deliberation. "The core needs to be handled carefully; the power distribution system is not fully functional. I can't power the shields and engines at the same time. For the moment I can charge the shields, and then I'll have to manually divert power to the hyperdrive before impact."
"Wait, manually?" Varro asked with concern. "How much time does that give us to get off the ship?"
"Not enough to slip up," he said slowly, but firmly. "This ship will not survive long without shields. To ensure we shift the asteroid's course enough, I can switch power at fifty kilometers. At the slowest acceptable velocity, that would give us about four minutes to get off and achieve minimal safe distance."
"That's not much room for error," Varro said grimly.
The scientist nodded in response. "You're right, it's not."
Realizing there was no other option, Scott assented nervously. "Yeah… yeah okay; do whatever you need."
"Good, activating the primary core ignition sequence." Entering a command sequence into the engineering panel, the screen spat data out at a fast rate as the core turned on. The flow of energy was slow at the moment, but it was enough to fill the bulkheads with a short vibration as the ship's natural source of power surged through the conduits. "Main power holding steady; I'm bringing the shields online."
"Take us out Rush," the Lieutenant ordered from the hangar bay. "I've got the shuttle on hot standby to bail when we're done here."
He walked over to the foremost console and entered in navigation data. Varro slumped back as the ship moved forward. The tactical display showed the cruiser's progression out of the facility.
"Ninety seconds to space doors," Rush announced, keeping a close eye on the display. "Oh no," he muttered, running back out into the corridor.
Varro was startled as he ran past him and stopped by the Nati computer. "What is it?"
After a moment of rapid typing, the scientist finally relaxed and let out a short chuckle. "With all out attention on the cruiser, I neglected to open the space doors to accommodate this ship."
Seeing how calmly he was reacting, Varro couldn't help but join in and laugh a bit as well. "Running into the doors; now that'd be a hell of a way to end this mission." All three of the men shared a laugh as they released some of the tension from the long day.
Getting it out of his system, Rush walked back up to the navigational console. Varro followed behind him, a small grin still visible behind his helmet. "The doors are open; we'll clear space doors in twenty seconds." He watched closely as the environment scrolled around the silhouette of the cruiser on the screen. The engines hummed powerfully as the ship passed by the space doors. "That's it, we are free to navigate. I'm bringing us about to face the oncoming asteroid."
The ship lurched forward as Rush increased the ship's velocity, and the screen showed the surrounding spin around, indications that the cruiser was turning hard to port. Rush zoomed out so the asteroid could now be visible. The cruiser was a small dot in comparison to the large bulbous rock, and the distance that separated then was almost one million kilometers.
"How long do we have until we make contact?" Varro asked, gazing at the screen over Rush's shoulder.
"About half an hour," responded Rush, as the ship shook slightly. "We've entered the debris field, but shields are holding for the moment."
Again, the ship took a hit from a substantial chunk of rock and the lights flickered slightly as the power grid fluctuated. "Here's to hoping they last half an hour," said Varro in as calm a voice he could muster.
With nothing to do for the time being, Rush looked around the room. His gaze drew him to one of the red circles sitting on the side of the wall. Upon a careful inspection, he noticed a set of controls located above it. He had observed that none of the other wall mounts like this contained those controls. Out of curiosity, he tapped one of the buttons, steadying himself against the nearby control panel as another piece of debris shook the deck.
The panel slid down and revealed a large piece of hardware sitting in the center of a housing unit. He grabbed onto the hardware and pulled hard, disconnecting it from the socket at the back of the unit.
"What are you doing?" Varro finally asked after watching in silence.
Rush struggled to pull it from the unit, but soon he had it out of the housing and sat it on the ground. He stared at it with marvel. "I believe it is a processing node in the computer's operating systems."
"I don't think it's safe to just pull things out of the wall while we're trying to control this ship," he cautioned.
"The ship has redundancies that can fill in for this one. We can learn a lot about their technology if we can get this back to Destiny." He glanced over to the screen and gauged he had enough time to begin examining the system.
Leaving the cool comfort of the shore, Young's team made the final trek up the river bank and into the clearing. A group of six Airmen stood in a perimeter around the 'Gate. They turned around, weapons raised when they saw movement by the bank, but quickly lowered them once they saw who it was.
"Colonel Young!" Airman Metner shouted out, walking up to join him as he approached the 'Gate. They met about twenty meters from the 'Gate. "Sir, we've secured the area and there has been no sign of the alien as of yet," she said promptly.
He continued on to the Stargate, Metner walking back with him. "If it wants off of this planet, one way or another it's coming back here. I intend to be ready for it." Stopping in front of the platform, he took a quick look at the exposed panel.
Eli walked all the way up to it and examined the jerry rigging the alien had done. "I have to admit, that was pretty clever. Though I didn't know they had that good an understanding about Ancient technology. Actually, come to think of it, why didn't it leave and contact a ship from another planet? You know, get away from us first?"
"Without a Kino, it's too dangerous to go to another planet," James speculated, resting her arms on the stock of her rifle.
"It doesn't matter right now," Young said gruffly. He looked around the whole clearing and finally focused on a dense tree line sitting thirty meters behind the Stargate. "If we're just standing around here, it'll never show up. Let's take cover back there until…"
The Colonel didn't have a chance to finish as a loud boom echoed through the air, seemingly from nowhere. All the military personnel raised their weapons quickly and pointed them out in all directions, looking for the source. Then four more booms followed, drawing Young's gaze up to the sky.
A large oval craft descended from the clouds, a red streak from its engines following behind it. The Nakai fighter flew quickly to the ground in a threatening manner, with two companions quickly following it.
"Get to cover!" Young shouted as the craft grew in size at an amazing rate. Everyone immediately bolted away from the Stargate and ran at breakneck speed to the tree line.
Two sharp pulses echoed through the air, and a few seconds later the ground shook as two fireballs erupted behind the group. Chunks of earth went flying everywhere and the ground quaked powerfully. Young, Chloe, and James were towards the rear and they all were thrown to the ground by the shock of the explosion.
His ears ringing, Young stared up at the sky to see two more fighters pop through the clouds and head on a course to the ruined city, while the other three fighters continued closing on the Stargate. The lead fighter fired another pair of shots, further sending the team scampering into the forest. Rising to his feet, he saw several Airmen turn quickly to fire a short burst from their rifles, but even if the bullet hit their target is simply bounced off of the shield protecting the fighter. He ran over to his left and helped Chloe up, starting to get his hearing back.
"Come on, move!" Pushing her off in the direction of the trees, he squatted and pulled his rifle up, firing short burst at the fighter. James had recovered from the blast and squatted next to Young. She adjusted the setting on her pulse rifle to maximum and aimed carefully at the fighter. As she did so, the barrel of the weapon began to glow with a powerful blue light, and emitted a high-pitched squeal of disapproval.
Realizing that his efforts were pointless, Young started to retreat but paused when he saw James aiming down her sights. Once the fighter was less than three hundred meters off of the ground she pulled the trigger and a large blue ball of energy flew out from the barrel of the weapon. It quickly closed the distance to the fighter and the energy splashed across the shields. The thin shields guarded the fighter dissolved and the remaining power of the blast washed over the port side of the ship. What looked like the port cannon exploded and that side of the fighter began to smoke.
Startled by the damage, the fighter pulled up and soared across the tree tops, out of sight for the moment. The two escorts did the same. Having some calm, Young looked back to James. She was gasping in pain as her rifle was releasing a lot of hot exhaust from the slits across the barrel. "I guess I overcooked that shot." The weapon cooled quickly and soon she could hold it comfortably again. "Now we know why you keep it on the lower setting."
"Good shot Lieutenant, that should give us enough time to regroup," he said in a thankful tone. They both ran to the tree line and gathered with the rest of their team. He took cover behind a tree at the edge of the clearing and looked on at his people. "Is everyone okay?"
He received a chorus of affirmatives. "Nice shooting," Greer said quickly to James, moving his assault rifle to his back and pulled up his pulse rifle.
"Colonel Young!" Metner exclaimed, pointing at something out in the clearing. Carefully he leaned out from the tree and gazed out. On the opposite end of the clearing the alien hybrid was emerging from the forest. It was fully dressed in baggy clothes that was not designed for its body and was holding some kind of weapon with a long, thin barrel.
Seeing the hybrid, he raised his rifle, and looked down his scope, lining up a good shot. Before he could fire, droning from all three of the fighters returned and they opened fire once more. A flurry of red energy pulses slammed into the ground all between the 'Gate and the tree line where the team was hiding. Explosions boomed across the landscape and completely obscured Young's sight. He retreated back behind the tree as everyone else also took cover behind anything they could find. There was a powerful heat wave that came from the series of explosions, and the jarring explosions shook the ground.
The barrage stopped after almost half a minute and left most of the people shell shocked. Once Young was mostly recovered he peeked back over the tree. Greer side stepped from his cover and moved to a tree closer to Young's. Together they looked at the carnage.
A cloud of smoke and dirt sat in the air for a while, preventing anything from being seen. However, the dull reverberating of the fighters' engines could be heard nearby. Soon the cloud began to thin out, and the red glow from the crafts became visible. All three were hovering over the Stargate, remaining perfectly still only ten meters above the ground. At first, only the red light pierced through the cloud ominously, but as the cloud settled, they could see the fighters.
Taking up the center position in the formation, the damaged fighter still had a smoking cannon on its port side. The two other fighters were on either side of the lead ship, and all three enemy ships had their cannons directly aimed at the team. Now that the cloud was mostly gone, Young could see the hybrid standing below the lead fighter, staring back out at him.
"What are they doing?" James said, peeking from her cover. "Why don't they just finish us?"
"They don't care about us," Chloe said in a weak voice. "We aren't as interesting as that hybrid. But if we interfere, they will kill us." She spoke in an almost prophetic manner.
As soon as she said that, a powerful white light emanated from the bottom of the center fighter. The light completely surrounded the hybrid, and a moment later the creature floated off the ground. Within a short moment, the beam had secured the hybrid in the fighter.
The two support craft began to fly off, heading back to the mothership that was undoubtedly in orbit of this planet. Hanging behind for a moment, the lead fighter continued to aim its cannon directly at the team's position. The light on the bottom disappeared and the entry point sealed on the craft. With a quick, jerky movement, the cannon tilted down and released one final shot with detonated a good distance in front of the trees. It was still close enough to force everyone to duck back into cover, and by the time the smoke cleared the fighter was high in the sky.
Left in peace, Young stepped out from the forest and everyone else followed suit. The ground in front of them was riddled with craters and dirt was splashed everywhere. A few small fires continued to burn in the craters and the smell of burning grass was thick. Young didn't take his eyes off the fighter until it disappeared through a cloud, a thin smoke trail tracing its path.
"Damn," Greer muttered, shaking his head despondently.
Chloe coughed as she walked into the torn up landscape with particles flying all through the air. She saw Young's frozen figure and walked up to him. "Colonel, you did what you could. You…"
"I shouldn't have waited and debated it on and on. If I had just killed it the moment we found out what it was," he said gruffly, finally staring back down to the ground. "There's no telling what the repercussions of my failing to act will be."
"You're not a cold-blooded killer," she said firmly, grabbing onto his arm. "I know you're a soldier, but you also know that doesn't mean you kill everything you find."
Young swallowed hard, and looked over to Chloe. He stared hard at her, thinking over his decision over and over. Finally he gave her a short nod and turned to walk to the 'Gate. "Eli, dial us back. We've still got hostiles in the city; I'd rather get out of here before they decide they don't want to leave us alone."
"Gladly," he answered enthusiastically, snatching the remote from his bag and running up to the Stargate.
The Gate Room was filled with some commotion as the crew was moving bags and containers of food out of the room and to their proper storage sites. Brody stood at the dialing terminal and let out a relieved breath when he saw Eli step through the event horizon. He was carrying Brody's Kino and tossed it over to him. The rest of the team made their speedy return to Destiny. Some were covered in dirt from the firefight, but everyone had managed to calm their nerves back down from the excitement.
Looking around at their physical states, Brody cocked his head in curiosity. "What happened to you guys?"
"We got attacked by the Nakai, but I'm gonna wing it and say they learned how to fight from the Vogons," he said with a grin.
"Colonel?" Brody asked again, slightly unsure how to take that answer.
The Airmen dispersed from the room and Young watched as TJ escorted Chloe and Ryder down the hall to the infirmary. He sighed and walked up to Brody as Greer and James headed out of the room. "The alien got away; his friends made sure of that. I'll go over everything in a briefing later. Now, where's Rush?"
Brody cleared his throat loudly and started walking down the hall. "Last I heard he was about ten minutes away from crashing into an asteroid."
"What?!" he exclaimed, temporarily putting the last few hours to the back of his mind.
"Yeah, well we've had some interesting developments going on here too. We can check on his status from the Control Interface Room." With Young in tow he began to speed walk down the halls.
They quickly made their way to the room where Volker and Park were already located, closely monitoring the situation on the holo-display. Park turned to greet the Colonel, her worried countenance showing the severity of the situation. "Bring me up to speed," he said. The display showed the asteroid making its way to the second planet with a small dot quickly approaching the asteroid.
"Rush found a Nakai cruiser in that outpost," Volker started, checking the telemetry from the cruiser. "Apparently the Nati found it a long time ago and have been studying it."
"They also found out that the reason the station was abandoned was because an asteroid was on a collision course for it," Park continued. "The planet below is populated, so Rush was going to use a controlled detonation of the cruiser's core to deflect the asteroid away from the planet."
The Colonel let the information sink in quickly as Volker's console beeped loudly. "The cruiser is hailing us."
"Put it on," Young said.
The line was quickly established and Rush's voice echoed through the room's speakers. "Destiny, we're on our final approach. The ship has sustained minor hull damage, but I think we can still complete the mission."
"Rush, this is Young," he announced quickly, walking up to the display. "Volker and Park just informed me of your plan. Are you sure that this will work?"
"Colonel, if I didn't have faith in my ability to execute this successfully, I promise you I would have objected harder when we were originally discussing it," the scientist chided tiredly. "I'm preparing to divert power to the hyperdrive; the drive is set to activate in four minutes, and when that happens the core will detonate."
Understanding that there was little he could do at this point, Young nodded at no one in particular. "Good luck."
"Thank you Colonel." Quickly entering in the remaining commands for the delayed hyperdrive activation, Rush looked carefully at the screen. He waited for the right moment before running to the engineering console. "Diverting power now!" The screen reflected the sudden transfer of power from shields to the hypderdrive. In addition to that, the ship shuddered as there was no longer anything protecting the cruiser for impacts. Once more he made his way to the main console, and started the program. A countdown appeared on the screen to as the ship made its way closer to the asteroid. "It's done; we have four minutes until the core goes critical."
The moment the shields went down the debris field began to deliver a greater punishment to the ship. A set of sparks flew from the open housing Rush had taken the processor from and the deck shook violently. Dozens of smaller collisions could be felt reverberating through the ship.
Rush moved quickly, grabbing the Nati tablet and the Nakai processor on his way out. With Varro at his side, he backtracked the way to the hangar bay from memory. Even though they were running as fast as they could, it still took nearly two minutes to reach the bay. They often were slowed down by a powerful impact that would knock them off balance.
The bay was a vast multistoried cavern that currently was a black void. A few fighters could be seen parked in front of the shuttle. Scott had the shuttle parked directly by the platform that descended down into the bay, which allowed Varro and Rush to run straight into the craft.
Sealing the door behind him, Rush stowed the equipment in the storage pods in the rear of the shuttle. "Take off Lieutenant!" he shouted as soon as the doors were closed. The shuttle automatically pressurized itself and the vents hissed as the atmosphere was restored.
With a shake, the shuttle lifted off of the hangar floor and pivoted towards the open passageway to space. Varro and Rush secured themselves at their posts as the shuttle flew out of the cruiser, everyone taking a free moment to remove their helmets. "Eighty seconds to detonation," Rush said once he had a chance to check the distance to the target. The shuttle rocked violently as a car sized rock grazed the top of the craft. Sparks flew from a panel on the ceiling. "Careful!"
"I know, this field is hard to navigate," Scott responded through gritted teeth. He plotted a course that took them straight up, relative to the solar axis, and out of the worst part of the field. Then he flattened out and began to head in the direction of Destiny which was currently curving around the star and returning to this side of the solar system. As he did that, the asteroid settled into position in the lower right part of the viewport. "Jesus," he mumbled. The massive rock was covered in sharp edges and deep canyons, and was pockmarked by thousands of craters. When the cruiser slipped into view, it helped to establish a reference frame for the sheer monstrous size of the asteroid. Small fireballs erupted from the hull of the cruiser as rocks of all sizes slammed into it.
"We're only fifty kilometers away," Rush informed in an alarmed tone. "That's not nearly good enough."
"I'm pushing the engines to maximum!" Gradually, the asteroid began to disappear from the viewport as the shuttle left it behind. The star was off to port now and was casting a bright glow into the cockpit.
"Thirty seconds," Rush announced, keeping his eyes glued to the incoming telemetry. "We're nearing minimal safe distance." His side console beeped and he quickly glanced over at it. "Destiny is straight ahead."
Indeed, there was a twinkling object floating in space far ahead of the shuttle. Without knowing what it was, from this distance it might as well have confused for a star, but as the shuttle came closer, the details started to appear.
Rush continued to watch as the shape of the cruiser approached and nearly touched the surface of the asteroid. "Here we go." He activated the rear-facing camera and zoomed in to look at the detonation.
Roughly three hundred meters from the surface, the cruiser attempted to enter hyperspace. A bright white glow formed behind the cruiser, and then immediately consumed the entire superstructure of the ship. The following explosion ripped the cruiser into a million fragments, the hull blossoming from the aft and tearing apart all the way to the bow. With a burning white light, a great fireball erupted, and grew until it was several kilometers wide. A significant portion of the debris field was incinerated by the blast. While the explosion soon began to dissipate and ease the strain on Rush's eyes, the resulting shockwave continued on. It quickly passed over the asteroid and the field, and caught up with the shuttle. At its extreme range, the wave was dispersed and did little more than shake the shuttle.
Rush let out a harsh breath and Scott turned back quickly to him. "Did it work? Did we deflect the asteroid?"
Switching the console to once more show sensor telemetry, Rush took a moment to scan the results of the detonation. He smiled and leaned back in his chair, resting his gloved hand on his tired head. "It did. The detonation managed to deflect the asteroid by eleven degrees, and slowed it down by a fractional amount. It's enough to ensure it misses the outpost and the planet. And it burned up about a fifth of the remaining debris field."
Scott put a big grin on his face and let loose a happy laugh. "Now that is what I call a good day's work! Rush, we'll celebrate this with a trip to Brody's bar."
Nodding agreeably, Rush panned over to look at the side console which was currently beeping. "It's Destiny." He pushed a few buttons and activated the comm line. "This is Rush."
"We were monitoring your situation from here," Young said in a calm manner. "I'm glad to see everything worked out well on your end."
"As am I." He paused and took a moment to stare into the back compartment where he stored his findings. "Colonel, I should apologize for taking matters into my own hands."
There was a short moment of stunned silence from the comm line, and even Scott and Varro gazed back in slight surprise. Finally Young responded. "You didn't do anything wrong. Sounds like you all did a fine job."
"Yeah, I'll make sure my report is thoroughly enlightening."
"I'd appreciate that. Destiny out." The line went to static and Rush terminated the channel. He sat in silence the rest of the trip as Scott piloted the shuttle straight for the ship.
Rush and Young walked down the hall, trading highlights from each of their respective missions. The vents overhead hissed quietly as they cycled fresh air into the ship, and the hum of the engines grew modestly as the ship was accelerating away from the star.
"How are you feeling?" Young asked in concern. "You mentioned that the core was radioactive."
Rush dismissed the worry with a wave. "I checked with the internal sensors on the suits; they absorbed the majority of the radiation. What little exposure we received might give us headaches for a day or two."
"That's good news. And at least you managed to pick up some interesting souvenirs from your excursion," Young said.
"Well, I doubt the Nati data I found will tell us anything we don't already have access to," admitted Rush in an upbeat tone, "but the Nakai processor can give us a valuable insight into how their technology works."
"Once you can access it that is," he reminded Rush.
The scientist shrugged off the comment. "It shouldn't take long to develop a proper interface. The Nati database has some records of their own attempts, so that should prove simple enough."
Young nodded and gave his companion a sidelong glance as they walked on. "You know, you did a good job today. I mean it; it pissed me off you didn't keep me in the loop, but I suppose I can't argue with your results."
"I guess sometimes our missions can work out for the best," he said, almost immediately regretting his wording. Looking to Young he gave him an apologetic nod. "That probably wasn't what you want to hear right now."
"No, it's fine. We know there's a degree of risk every time we step on another world. Sometimes we win, and sometimes we lose." Despite the calm tone he used, Young did seem to be somewhat torn up on the matter.
"It's strange," Rush started slowly, "when the actions of a people long dead return to cause us problems. The creations by an alien race that we never saw, never heard, never had any interaction with, were able to lead us down such an unfortunate road." He stared down the length of the hallway, a frown creasing his forehead. "Makes you realize just how connected we all are, when such distant ghosts are able to haunt us."
Young scoffed at him. "You scare me when you start getting poetic. Even more when you're right. Still doesn't change the fact that my failure to act landed us in a lot of trouble."
"If it helps, I would've done the same as you," Rush said reassuringly. He got a confused glare from the Colonel. "I don't think I could pass up an opportunity to take one of their people alive and study them; learn as much as possible," he explained with a grin.
The response led Young to chuckle and shake his head in disbelief. "You're right, that did help." They continued walking the remaining short distance to the Infirmary.
Inside the Infirmary, the mood quickly shifted from jovial to sober. Chloe and Ryder were sitting on two adjacent beds, both with a grave look on their faces. At the back of the room, TJ was poring over data on her laptop.
Young lost his grin as TJ noticed his arrival and walked up to him. "Sir, I think we may have a problem."
His eyes darted over to the two women on the medical beds and back to TJ. "Did the device do something to them?"
She shook her head quickly, going back and bringing her laptop to him. "No they're fine. I ran all the scans I could think of and they are both healthy. But the more I thought about that hybrid, the more questions I started to get." TJ set the laptop down so everyone could see it. On the screen, she had a brain scan of Ryder. It had two charts on the side, graphing two sets of brain activity. "I don't think the hybrid has Tabitha's consciousness. I think the device used Major Brooks' neural signature."
"Based on what the Colonel told me," Rush said grimly, "that would make sense. Brooks was exposed to an Ancient repository, and the device was searching for the superior mental pattern."
"It explains how come it was so easily able to adapt the Stargate to send a message," Chloe added on.
The Colonel stood still and took a few seconds for the information to sink in. "If that's true, we've got more than just a problem."
"Once they find out just what kind of knowledge we have access to," Rush started, crossing his arms and stepping back from the laptop, "they're only going to want more. They left Destiny alone after our encounter in the last galaxy probably because they wanted to talk time to study what they got from Chloe. They've been waiting for years to find us again, and the next time they find us, they won't settle on just information; they'll want everything."
"Do we know exactly what Ancient information Brooks had?" Young asked.
"An array of technical data," Rush said vaguely, scratching his stubbly cheek as he talked. "It included weapons, shields, advanced propulsion, and a wide-range of research projects. The next time we go to Earth I can find a definitive list."
Young groaned aloud at the mention of Earth. "Oh God, that is going to be a horrible debriefing."
"At this point, there's nothing we can really do; other than prepare for the future." TJ closed her laptop and took a step closer to her patients. "You two are free to go."
As they rose from their beds, Scott walked into the Infirmary. His excited disposition wasn't diminished by the overall lack of levity in the room as he approached Chloe. "Hey, how are you doing?"
She put a small smile on her face. "Good, TJ said we're fine."
"Great. A bunch of us are down at Brody's; gonna celebrate the fact the sun will continue to rise on that planet." He took great pride in the success of the mission he participated in, and Rush couldn't help but crack a grin. "Rush, you'll be there right?"
Rush nodded. "Of course, but I need to do one thing first. I'll be there in soon. I would appreciate it however, if you made sure Colonel Young found his was down there," he said with a smirk. "He needs a reprieve from filing reports."
"I couldn't agree more," Scott replied enthusiastically.
Before he could attempt to speak, Young threw his hands up in surrender. "I'll be along; you don't have to convince me."
Satisfied that everything was turning out fine here, Scott took Chloe by the arm and led her out of the Infirmary. Ryder started to leave, but stopped in front of Young. "Colonel, I just wanted to say, thanks for having me on the mission," she said slowly. "I know it's a bit weird; the whole thing felt like a catastrophe, but somehow being at the center of all the action was helpful. It brought some unresolved issues to the surface, and was a good experience. I just… just wanted you to know that." With a smile she extended her hand to him.
Genuinely happy at her progress, Young took her hand and shook it firmly. "That's good to hear." He released her hand and she promptly left the Infirmary.
"Maybe you did more good on that mission than you thought," Rush said from the threshold to the Infirmary. With that he turned the corner and walked down the corridor.
Eli stood by the recharging plate, tapping his fingers impatiently on the platform. His iPod sat on the plate for only a few seconds before he quickly snatched it from the plate. He checked if it was fully charged before turning to leave. The sudden appearance of Ginn in the hallway made him jump.
"Oh, crap. You have got to start announcing yourself," he said with a wide grin. Pocketing his music player, he walked down to the Kino storage room.
"Sorry," said Ginn, walking with him. "There's been a lot of talk around the ship about your mission. That compound you found sounded exciting. You've had quite the busy day."
He let out an awkward laugh and gave her a nod of confirmation. "Yeah, that's one way to put it."
"At least you all came back alive. It can't have been that bad," she said reassuringly.
"You're right, and I'm kind of glad about how some things turned out." He let that hang in silence for a moment as they entered the rotunda. Leaning against his closed door, he sighed and looked solemnly at Ginn. "Back on the planet, when I saw what that alien technology could do… I wondered if maybe it could bring you back. But then I watched as all the wrong things kept happening and it made me realize how short-sighted I was. I mean, without even checking out the tech, I was seriously thinking about using it."
Ginn smiled and looked him straight in his eyes, her expression breaking him from his brooding. "You did the right thing. That technology would've exists to bread and encourage war; it's nothing I want to be exposed to. I'll admit, being invisible to people most of the time is frustrating, but it's not the worst that could happen to me. Don't beat yourself up over this."
With a sly look on his face, Eli tapped the door chime and opened the door to the Kino room. "I've got something for you." He walked into his room and reached for a bag that he had hidden under bed. From inside, he pulled out a Kino that had many adjustments to it. Dozens of small reflective panels coated the surface of the camera, and several antennas sat on the top of it. The bottom panel had been twisted off, and extra hardware had been attached to it. Overall, it had a cumbersome, thrown together appearance. "I managed to find a spare set of holographic emitters in storage, and with enough tweaking and programming, I got this portable emitter made for you. It can project your image, and the Kino can be controlled through the computer to allow you to move. Now you can walk around freely, and you don't have to be invisible."
He activated it from his console and held his hand out in the air. It floated off of the palm of his hand and stayed perfectly still in the center of the room. Pressing a few buttons, he enabled control of the Kino to the main computer. Then he noticed that Ginn's reaction, while happy, was not terribly ecstatic.
"Is something wrong?" he asked, flabbergasted at the lack of the desired response. "I tested it out, it does work… I…" She was suppressing a laugh as he was reached for an explanation. Eli frowned for a moment and then his eyes went wide. "You knew!"
Ginn began laughing and nodded her head. "It was kind of silly of you to build it in secret when you're working on a Kino. You do know that those are my eyes on this ship."
"Then why didn't you say anything?" he asked, slumping down into his chair.
She shrugged as she stopped laughing. "You seemed to enjoy working in secret. I didn't want to take that away from you."
Finally he laughed back at her, shaking his head. "Well, why don't you try it out?"
"Okay." She immediately dissolved and for a moment nothing happened. Then Eli's computer started to process more data as the Kino's emitters. A shadowy figure initially surrounded the Kino, and within a second it took on the appearance of Ginn. She held her hands out in front of her and stared at them. Then she turned to look at Eli. "You can see me, right?" Her voice came through clearly from the speakers he had attached to the camera.
He grinned and nodded in response. "Clear as day. It's not much of an improvement; I know. But at least this way you can interact with the crew without any trouble. And, I have faith that with enough time I can eventually find a way to solidify the projection. Figuring out the collision matrix for all the boundary particles and possibly temperature regulation might be tricky, but…"
"Eli," she said firmly, snapping him out of his monologue. "Thank you, so much. This is perfect." She gave Eli a genuinely happy smile. "Now, I hear there's a bit of a celebration down at Brody's bar. Maybe you want to join them?"
Putting his iPod down on his table, he gave her an approving look. "It's a date." He gestured for her to go first, and followed her out as she walked back out into the rotunda.
The Bridge was empty since the countdown clock had almost expired and there was nothing left to do in the system. With the star behind Destiny, the viewports had a simple vista of the stars. Rush walked in and slowly maneuvered over to the communication station. He entered in a preloaded command sequence and sent out a transmission. It took almost a minute for him to get an acknowledgement. The Kino deployed from in front of the command chair and the monitors slowly began to deploy. Rush walked to the chair and stood in front of it.
The monitors quickly brought up the video link with Kalin sitting in front of his desk in the same Nati lab from before. "Hello again doctor Rush. How did your mission go?"
"It was very successful actually. Apparently there was a threat to the station, so the Nati abandoned it," he started, very matter-of-factly. "We were able to remove the danger however."
"That sounds like good news," Kalin replied.
Rush nodded and moved to the comm station, the Kino following his every move. He entered in a sequence of commands into the laptop there. "The outpost is completely operational, and the Nati did indeed have a flourishing ship yard at this location. I'm sending you everything we gathered on our mission."
Looking off screen, Kalin gestured to another officer to check the telemetry. "We've got the data. It should prove to be interesting material for our intelligence division."
"I think it could be more than that. The Nati aren't coming back here; as far as they are concerned this station has been destroyed. With its powerful defenses and supplies, it could be a safe harbor for the insurgents," he said, presenting his offer to Kalin in a friendly manner.
"That's a very tempting idea," he admitted, looking over the data he received. "I'll present the offer to my superiors; if all goes well we can have a task force out there in a few days."
"Very good." Rush paused and switched to a softer disposition. "How are you doing Kalin? You look much better."
"I'm actually doing fairly well. Most of the burn damage has been healed, and I've been walking for the last four days," he grimaced mildly at that last part. "It's been a bit painful, but the physical therapy is really helping. Working here is so different; the social landscape took me a while to get used to. But at the end of the day, the work I'm doing is helping these people, so I can't complain." Kalin looked pleased to be able to talk about his life. "Thanks for asking."
"No problem. I'm glad to hear you're happy. We'll talk again, Rush out." Kalin gave him a quick wave before the picture cut out. The room reset itself to the conditions from before the communication and Rush slowly lumbered out of the room.
James and Scott banged their metal mugs together and quickly downed a generous amount of alcohol. They both gagged for a moment on the strong beverage. Grabbing a small piece of a citrus fruit, Scott bit down on it hard and drank the small bit of sour juice it produced.
Laughing from the chair next to Scott, Chloe just shook her head. "You people are crazy."
"Well you'll be happy to hear that since we've found more fruits recently," Brody said reaching for a few small bottles under his bar, "I've been able to mix together a few interesting cocktails. I figured it was time I expand the menu here."
Volker was standing by the still, currently filling up several bottles with the alcohol. "I also helped."
She raised her eyebrow with interest at the statement. "Oh, what do you have?"
Brody held the first bottle up and read the label he had placed on it. "Yeah, this one is something like a cranberry-orange blend. And this other one is a bit like an apple. Also, I managed to get some plain carbonated water; I've been craving seltzer for a long time." He put a mug in front of Chloe. "I'll have more soon; it just takes a while to make something that actually tastes good." Not discretely at all, he took a step back and shut a container that had over a dozen other bottles inside of it. Volker stood by the container and silently mouthed 'it's horrible'.
Everyone snickered and Young, who was sitting beside Chloe, gave Brody a funny look. "Brody, if you want this to be a good bar, you'll have to put a billiards table in here." Scott laughed aloud and banged the table, and everyone joined in with him.
Grinning, Chloe poured some of the apple blend into her cup and Brody added a couple parts of alcohol. Young did the same but with the other blend. Chloe tried a small sip of her drink, and nodded in approval. "Now that is something I can drink."
Volker's eyes went wide and he stared at the door. "Holy crap."
"Hey guys," Eli said, walking into the bar. The projection of Ginn was right beside him, and at first everyone stared.
"Okay, I think I've had enough, 'cuz I'm seeing things," Scott said meekly putting his mug on the bar and pushing it away from him.
Eli smirked at his reaction. "No, she's actually here. I rigged a Kino to project a hologram for her."
"It's good to see you again," Chloe said as she was the first to recover from the surprise.
They walked up to the bar and Eli sat at the available seat to the right of James. Ginn stood still beside Eli, unsure of what to do. "I'm sorry; it's just been so long since I've had the chance to interact with people on this level. It's just a bit different than just watching."
"You don't have to feel uncomfortable," Young said, taking a sip from his drink.
"Yeah, you're always welcome to join in," Chloe affirmed.
While they had been talking, Rush entered the room and was marveling at Ginn's presence. "Well, I guess today's is a bit of a reunion," he said, walking around the bar and standing next to Brody since all of the seats on the other side had been filled. He noticed the bottles on the bar and grabbed the one with the carbonated water. Taking a clean mug, he filled it a quarter full with alcohol and added another quarter of water. He held the mug up. "The closest we can get to a gin and tonic somehow feels appropriate for this, doesn't it?"
Eli snorted at the joke, and accepted a mug that Brody had poured for him. He had refilled all the empty mugs and poured a bit for himself as well. Everyone took their mugs and raised them in the air. "To Ginn," he said. They all lightly tapped their mugs together and drank down their beverages.
Sifting through the dirt, Park continued planting seeds in another empty container she had dragged into the room. She didn't work in silence for long as the door opened on the other end of the room, behind the taller plants. "Lisa, are you in here?" TJ called out.
"I'm in the back," Park responded, taking a break and looking up. TJ and Varro found their way through the plots first, and behind them was Greer and Wray. "Hi Ronald, Camille."
"I realized that you were putting a lot of work on yourself with taking care of the food, so when Tamara told me where she was going I thought I might help out. If it's okay with you," Wray asked, sitting down on the other side of the dirt filled container next to Varro and TJ. Greer walked around and put himself down by Park.
Smiling at the company and holding Greer's hand, she nodded energetically. "It's not a problem; I'd love it for you all to join up." She pointed to a bag of seeds on the other side of the plot and TJ, Varro, and Wray started picked seeds from it.
"Word around the ship is you blew up one of cruisers from those fish heads," Greer said to Varro in a congratulatory voice. "May I say that I highly approve."
"Yeah well, it was an abandoned ship; we never saw a single alien," he replied. "Not that I'm going to complain. I hear the story is different for your guys." Varro looked from Greer to TJ as finished speaking.
They continued trading stories from their separate missions as the ship groaned in preparation for a jump to F.T.L. Park gazed up at the dome and watched as the brilliant orange hue that was being caught by the star shifted to a brilliant white light. In a moment it settled into a peaceful blue, and the wisps of energy from the vertex washed over the dome, the dull drone from the engines filling the room.
"Hey," Greer said, bumping Park on the elbow. She looked back down to him. "You okay?" he asked quietly.
She nodded and leaned in, kissing him lightly on the cheek. "I'm doing great." Looking back out to the other side, she saw Varro, TJ, and Wray planting and talking. With a smile on her face, she continued to part the dirt and plant the seeds. The blue light waved over the floor and set a calm ambiance throughout the area as the five of them worked on plot of dirt.
On the next all new episode of Stargate Universe. A bold kidnapping leaves the SGC missing one of its best. Called in to help, the crew of Destiny must waste no time to rescue their friend. But not all is as it seems when an old, distant enemy returns to lead the fight against Earth.