Author Topic: A Test of Wills: Discovery  (Read 7931 times)

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Offline Þórgrímr

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« Reply #45 on: April 06, 2008, 09:04:36 AM »
Oort Cloud, Scipio System


The Megellus Class Scout, the Diana, seemed to effortlessly slide though the Oort cloud avoiding both the occasional huge asteroid and the thousands of smaller asteroids. At the scout's sensor controls Caius Iulius Antiochus worked hard scanning all the various asteroids while at the same time trying to track the trajectories of the asteroids that posed a possible threat to the ship.

The Diana carefully moved around one of the larger asteroids in the area and entered a very dense cluster of small metallic asteroids. The Diana slowed to a fraction of full power and began to negotiate the asteroid field. She inched through the field mainly using radar to avoid the dangerous chunks spinning nearby. Most of them would disintegrate if they hit the scout's shields, but an occasional one would be dense enough to get through the shields. It only took one of those to make your day really bad.

Iulius noticed the radar screen seemed to be playing games. Occasionally he thought he was getting reflected images of something from ahead of the scout. Suddenly he wasn?t getting an echo back from part of the display, so he began a systems diagnostics check. If the radar had developed a problem it would be suicide to continue the survey sweep.

As he worked though the systems check he heard the Trierarchus Lucius Varus Primus exclaim, ?By the gods what is that, Iulius?? He asked sounding very shocked.

Iulius looked up from the diagnostic and looked at the viewscreen and swallowed. A good third of the screen was filled with a dark mass. Iulius looked down at the radar and realized that part of the huge mass was blocking the scan. Worryingly the rest of whatever it was didn?t seem to be blocking anything.

?Derelict ship of some sort, maybe?? Iulius whispered. Then he looked back to the radar screen. It didn?t make sense why only part of the radar screen was occulded!

?Can?t be one of ours,? Lucius said, sounding less shocked. ?That thing is huge, and look at the size of that asteroid embedded in the side of it.?

?Ah ha, I see the problem now.? Iulius said eventually.

?See what?? Lucius said as he came up beside Iulius and peered at the radar screen.

?This cloud seems to consist of smaller metallic asteroids and they are scattering most of the radar waves except here.? He said pointing at the screen. ?So we are only recieving telemetry returns at the point where we have a clear view all the way to whatever it is.?

?Shall we have a closer look Trierarchus?? The Navigation Officer asked.

?Nav, get us in close. Let?s see if it?s a ship or just an odd rock.? Lucius said suddenly.

The Diana edged forward at a crawl. Soon they could tell it was indeed a ship. A massive ship, vast beyond anything the Romans had ever imagined. The most disturbing thing to the crew of the Diana was the size of the asteroid that had impacted amidships. It was truly immense and it underscored just how large this ship truly was.

As they neared the ship they could see it?s surface bore scorch marks and seemed to have been breached in several places. The breaches were small barely big enough for a man to get through.

Lucius was sure this was something that needed to be reported to fleet command. "Comm, prep a drone for Classis command and include all data we have on this. Get it launched ASAP."

"Aye, sir."

"I think the universe just got a bit more interesting," Lucius commented.


Sol System, Three Weeks Later

Casca was stunned by the size of the derelict his scout had found in the Scipio System. It must have been at least two hundred miles long and one hundred wide. Nothing Roma could build would come anywhere near the size of this monster.

"Marcus, has anything like this ship been found in any of the surveyed systems?"

"No, Imperator, this is the first time we have found any alien ship besides  the American one. All the systems we have surveyed so far have been uninhabited with no ruins of any sort."

"If that is the case, I think we may need the Americans to help us identify this derelict. Send Salonius and Sempronius to request their help."

Vestri ero perfectus, Imperator."
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Þórgrímr »
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Offline Þórgrímr

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« Reply #46 on: April 07, 2008, 09:49:19 AM »
Rama was tired of the diplomatic compound. The Romans had made him feel welcome, but somehow it still felt like a prison. Compared to the government facility they?d been in to start off with, the diplomatic compound was depressing. It consisted of one office building and basic housing facilities surrounded by a razor wire fence. Rama understood that the Romans were trying to ensure their safety, but it still didn?t stop the place feeling like a prison.

The weather was beginning to turn cold and winter was in the air.

Rama had spent much of the day reading Roman fiction. It was strange stuff. Rama had trouble telling who was the hero and who was the villain most of the time. Often the hero would kill several people to make a point or torture someone for information. In one story a Roman King, Tullus Hostilius, had made war against the Albans. During the fighting, three Roman warriors challenged three Albans to personal combat as a way to settle the conflict once and for all. Only Publius Horatius, a Roman warrior, survived. Horatius returned home, planning to celebrate the Roman victory. However, one of the Alban champions that Horatius slew was his sister?s betrothed. His sister decided to mourn his death instead of participating in the victory celebration. On hearing this, Horatius promptly killed her. It almost seemed like a social parable with an odd twist to Rama.

He?d decided to go for a walk to think about the differences between the Romans and Americans. Although the weather was cold it worried him less than many of the other Americans. Rama was from New Dominica whose climate was far more like Terra?s than the American homeworld of New Earth. He walked around the perimeter fence and watched the gray clouds scud about the otherwise blue sky. He?d just stopped for a moment to watch the Roman ground troops - that were based just outside the compound - drilling when one of the American ratings ran up to him.

?The Commodore wants to see you right away,? he said breathlessly.

Rama made his way to the office building. The building was the headquarters for the compound and also housed the Commodore?s office. He arrived at the building out of breath and entered.
 
?Go right in,? the Chief Petty Officer said, he was the Commodore?s secretary. So Rama did.

He found he wasn?t alone with the Commodore. Already with him were Doctor Gonsalvez, Commander Collins and Lieutenant Commander Dickson; it amounted to the entire senior American staff left.
 
?Ah Lieutenant, so good of you to find the time to join us.? Commodore Schneider said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

?Sorry Commodore I was over the other side of the compound when your runner found me.? Rama replied.

?Down to business,? Commodore Schneider said. ?I?ve been asked by the Romans to have our engineering and alien experts go along with them to check something out. They seem to think we might be able to shed some light on whatever it is.?

?I?ve decided to send Lt. Toulon and Lt. Commander Dickson.? Commodore Schneider said breaking into their thoughts. ?It?s a hard call, but if they want someone to talk with an alien then Lt. Cdr. Dickson is the best choice. Of course if they want someone to look at an alien then Doctor Gonsalvez would be better. They pick you up in an hour. Good luck.? The meeting broke up.
 
At last something to do, Rama thought as he walked back to his room to pack a few things.

A little under an hour later and Rama was back outside the HQ office building along with Hazel arriving just as a lone Roman armored personnel carrier pulled up.

?Good luck.? Commodore Schneider said once more and the two Americans entered the APC.

Rama watched the countryside slip past the APC through one of the firing ports. The land was a series of rolling hills green and lush despite the intense urbanization. He wondered out loud what the rest of the planet was like. One of the Roman guards with the two Americans explained that this was the most heavily populated part the planet. It seems Europe - not China - became the center of human population once the Romans had discoved how to build arcologies. Now Europe was sprouting mile-high arcologies like weeds and the population has soared due to these massive buildings. The Roman spoke with some pride about his planet. Rama closed the firing port and listened as the Roman went on to explain how Terra had many differing urban zones.

After a while Rama found himself drifting off to sleep wondering if this Roman knew just how close his planet was in looks compared to the original Earth Rama's people had left behind. Even the shapes of the continents were the spitting image of the maps he had seen back on New Dominica.

He awoke with a start as the APC stopped moving and the rear hatch of the APC was opened from the outside. Rama could see a small shuttle on the tarmac beyond the door. The guards took no chances with their safety and hustled them quickly onto the small craft.

?Strap in, we?ll be taking off in a minute.? The pilot said over the intercom.
Almost as soon as they?d strapped in the tiny vessel leapt into the air, initially with primitive - to Rama's eyes anyway - chemical rockets. Then without any warning the ion drive was engaged and all the G forces on them vanished.

Rama watched the Blue-Green planet shrink below them and the shuttle entered orbit and began heading for the new Destroyer Leader Marcus Antonius. As an engineer he rarely had the time when departing a starport to watch the spectacle of a life-bearing planet among the empty blackness of the galaxy around it. When he did get the chance he always tried to make the most of the sight. All too soon the planet had shrunk to the size of a silver dollar while the shuttle was approaching the Destroyer.

The shuttles outer hatch opened and Rama removed the restraining straps and got out of the acceleration couch. Hazel followed suit.

As the two of them moved towards the door a low ranking Roman crewman entered, ?please follow me.? She said in a pleasant sounding voice. The two Americans followed the young woman through the small ship and entered the room she had taken them to.

The room turned out to be the bridge of the destroyer. ?Welcome aboard.? Navarchus Sempronius Longinus said. ?I?m sorry about the secrecy surrounding our asking you to join us, but some of the things found on that derelict would cause the Senate major problems if the general populace found out about it. I need your word of honor that you won?t pass on this information to anyone but your commanding officer. Do I have your word you will not pass this on??

?Absolutely,? the two Americans said in unison.

?To continue,? Navarchus Longinus said, ?We have found something out in Scipio?s Oort Cloud and we?d like you to take a look at it along with our own experts. It?s possible your people have some experience with the sort of things we?ve found and that knowledge could be very helpful. I understand that you may have reservations about sharing your knowledge but we are underway for the Scipio system even as we speak. I will have the holo recordings of what was found out there brought to you, ans I would like for you to view them before we arrive at the derelict.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Þórgrímr »
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Offline Þórgrímr

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« Reply #47 on: April 08, 2008, 11:57:43 AM »
The next two days were very disquieting for the two Americans. The holovids were brought to their quarters and they sat watching the vids as horrible visions played out before their eyes.

They watched as the investigative team turned a corner and found the first remains. It was little more than a bag of bones in a sky-blue E-suit. Hazel burst out, "Lt, back up and scroll in on the patch on the right arm."

Rama did as Hazel asked and when he got the image re-sized and focused both Americans were stunned by what they saw, on the sleeve of the corpse was the old United Nations insignia, the Planet Earth on a sky-blue field.

"How is this possible?" Rama asked out loud, more to himself than to Hazel.

Hazel responded as if the question had been directed at her. "According to the records of the exodus from Earth the UN did not believe the American scientists and dismissed the warnings we gave to the rest of the planet. So by all rights the UN and its member nations should have been wiped out when Sol entered the nebula. This should should not be here." She sounded as if her entire world had just been turned upside down.

She locked eyes with Rama and asked ?Do you think it's a sleeper ship from Earth?? She asked.

?It looks like it, but it can?t be, can it?? He knew he sounded shocked, but so did Hazel.

?Lets see what else they have to show us before we say anything.? Hazel said, sounding both surprised and excited at the same time.

?Agreed.? Rama said. It can?t be anything else, Rama thought, being very careful not to say anything that might upset Hazel. It seems she is taking this revelation badly. But he knew the shape was too distinct. Too close to the design of the American sleeper ships that the US passed on just before the exodus was complete.

Scipio being nine transits and six weeks from Terra gave the two plenty of time to study the vids intimately, and every time they viewed it they could not help but think - somehow - the UN had gotten off its fat ass and got at least one sleepr ship built in time before Earth could no longer support life.

Eventually the expected knock arrived at their door. Rama opened it to find Salonius Curio waiting outside. ?Ready to see what all the fuss was about?? Salonius said.

?Lead on McDuff.? Rama said with a smile.

?What is this 'McDuff?" Salonius asked with some confusion.

Rama and Hazel gave a short chuckle. "It's a cartoon for a dog who teaches children ways to avoid crimes and criminals. I figured this derelict is a crime scene, so said to myself, what the heck." Rama said with a big grin.

Salonius smiled himself and continued, "we?re nearing the site, so I?ve been sent to bring you to the bridge so you can see what?s going on.?

The two Americans followed the Fumum Vendere to the bridge. On the main viewscreen they could see a dense field of small asteroids. For a moment Rama thought he could see something within the cloud. As the ship moved in they could hear the small asteroids popping on the shields. Suddenly a huge shape appeared on the screen.

As the Destroyer closed in on the huge ship Rama could see more detail. ?They?ve been attacked.? He said out loud.

?Yes, that?s one of the things we wanted to show you since the holovids did not have on it any of the boarding actions we have come across.? The Navarchus said. ?Is the ship familiar at all??

?Familiar yes, but I need to inspect it before I can be sure it?s what I think it is.? Rama said, avoiding the fact that he was positive he knew what it was already.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Þórgrímr »
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Offline Þórgrímr

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« Reply #48 on: April 09, 2008, 09:48:29 AM »
The Destroyer docked with the huge ship and a party from the bridge including the two Americans, the Navarchus and Salonius made their way down to the airlock. When they arrived they found that Roman Marines had already entered the ship and secured the entrance.

The party connected air tanks to their E-Suits. Once they were all ready they made their way onto the ship. The more they saw, the more Rama became sure this was what both he and Hazel thought it was. Everything matched far too well, but what was it doing here?

Corridors that had lain dark for millennia were briefly illuminated as the two Romans and the two Americans moved through the wrecked ship. The asteroid had torn through the surface of the derelict, burrowing in until it came to rest nearly vertical to what little gravity the mass was producing. Its life support systems were long dead, and the four explorers had been using their E-suit?s magnetic clamps and oxygen packs since they left the Marcus Antonius.

They turned the corner where the first remains were located on the holovid. On closer examination Rama could tell it had once been from Earth or something very similar. If these people were from Earth he couldn?t see how they could be out here in the Scipio Oort cloud all these years, it made no sense. Part of the corpse's right side had a hole that appears to have been bitten off. And judging by the way that it had partially rotted this had happened before the great ship had been opened to space.

After passing through several sections, relatively free of structural damage, Hazel heard a hiss from behind her. She turned to look for the source, but saw nothing. She heard the rest of the party come to a halt.

 ?What is it?? She asked. Hazel then noticed a thin wire hanging from a damaged control bundle; the party's passage had caused it to scrape over the metal casing of the tube below it, nothing more. She turned back to the party, and found herself looking into eyes as black as the lowest pits of Hell, two cold openings into darkness such as might have existed before the stars formed. Her breath caught in her throat, and she almost stumbled backwards.

Salonius spun around, thinking Hazel had seen something behind her. ?What? Did you see something??

Hazel looked at him for a moment, then blinked and looked back at the loose wire hanging beside her, which had scraped to a halt. ?No,? she said, ?nothing. A trick of the light.? Salonius shrugged and followed Rama and Sempronius forward, towards the rear of the ship.

?I don?t like this vessel at all, it gives me the creeps.? Hazel said, her red E-Suit looking totally absurd on this derelict vessel.

Rama knew what she meant. The ship felt dead. He could almost hear the ghosts deep within it. He just hoped none of them felt like coming to play with the four of them.

The quartet continued on down the corridor and after a hundred yards it turned right. As they passed each door along the corridor they took a quick look in. Each room had been ransacked. All the furniture had been either smashed or seemed to be missing. There was no sign of any more of the UN crew, or whatever they were.

Rama stopped abruptly, noticing a bit of color among the remains of a broken power conduit. Sempronius, his attention fixed on the motion tracker, nearly bumped into him.
 
?Look at this,? Rama said, ?the conduit?s been repaired, just enough to run minimal power through to the foreward sections. It looks like the internal explosions from weapons fire, rather than the asteroid impact, caused the original damage. I think someone survived when this thing was impacted by that asteroid we saw.? He waited for a reply, but received none. Turning, he looked down the empty corridor.

?Navarchus? Commander Dickson? Where are you guys at?? He called. He turned both ways, but was answered only by the faint echo of his own voice. ?Salonius, where are you?? To both sides of him the corridor stretched on, empty until it vanished beyond his vision. ?Navarchus!? He called again.
 
?What?? Rama nearly jumped out of his skin as a hand fell on his E-Suited shoulder. He turned to see Sempronius standing behind him, motion tracker in hand, and a puzzled look on his face.
 
?Lost you all for a moment,? Rama answered, his voice slightly weak.

They followed the corridor for a time and turned another corner and found themselves faced with a scene of utter destruction. The corridor had once ended at a set of double doors that were now missing. Instead it now opened into a larger area. At one end someone had built a barricade and tried to defend the room. The room was littered with dead. Most of the dead were wearing the sky-blue E-Suits they had seen on the first corpse.
 
However a few were something else, they were black and each had eight limbs. Six appeared to be legs; the other two ended in a set of three sharp claws. They were covered in a fine fur and what seemed to be black metal plates that had been attached to their backs and chests.

Sempronius examined one more closely and realized that their backs and chests were actually covered in an extra thick chitinous exoskeleton and that they were very smooth, giving the impression of metal plates from a distance. Their heads were spider-like with eight eyes, and with long curving scimitar like pedipalps extending from each side of their mouth. More excess exoskeleton growth around their heads formed an effective helmet. The overall effect was of something out of a nightmare, well armed and armored and not something the group wanted to meet alive and in the flesh.

Most of the bodies seemed to be armed with an assortment of beam weapons. ?Looks like the black spider things fought these humans and judging by the number of dead from each side it looked like the spider things had had the upper hand.? Sempronius said with revulsion in his voice from the thought of fighting armored and armed giant spiders.

?They do look like us, don?t they?? Rama said.

?Yeah, they look like us but they can?t be American, this ship is configured wrong, along with the crew wearing the insignia of the UN.? Hazel said from the back of the group.

They continued through the large room, which appeared to have been some sort of mess hall and out of the back of the room. Once again, there had once been double doors here and they were also missing. They entered another corridor that seemed to have been fought over as hard as the mess hall. Part way down the corridor they came upon a blast door that had been ripped apart. Long gouges criss-crossed the remains of the door. Beyond the blast doors the corridor turned right once more. As they turned the corner all four of them stopped in shock.
 
Filling the corridor was a much larger version of the black spider aliens. They could see it was dead, but the sight was disturbing in the extreme. As they closed in on the thing, they could see it had just broken through another blast door when something had blown its head off. As they approached it they could see that it?s massive claws were different from the other spider-like aliens, they were six foot long organic blades. It had an even heavier layer of exoskeleton on its back.

Hazel - as a scientist - was mesmerized by the spectacle in front of her. "This particular spider-like alien seems to be a close assault sub-species."  She said with fascination in her voice.

Rama had trouble imagining facing it in combat. Even floating dead in the middle of the corridor it almost made him stop in fear.

Beyond the huge alien the corridor was full of the dead black spider aliens and then at its far end the quartet found a human weapons team. They had been ripped apart, presumably by the spider aliens. The door behind the weapons team was missing - ripped completely out of the bulkhead -  and they passed through it into a cavernous room. Rama estimated it must fill almost all of the bow of this massive ship.

It was filled with row upon row of man-sized tubes. There must have been tens of thousands of them, maybe even millions. Most of the tubes were empty, but in an occasional one they could see humans in sky-blue uniforms with the UN patch on one side and many different types of flags on the other side, apparently asleep. Some of the tubes had been smashed and all around the four they could make out the remains of more humans, which seemed to have been ripped apart.

The floor was covered in dead. ?Its like something from a horror holo-vid. It?s like seeing an alien attack on one of our colony ships. I know they can?t be American, but I will bet my bottom dollar they are from Earth!? Rama stated matter-of-factly.

?What in the black pits of Hades happened here?? Sempronius asked very confused. ?There can?t be anyone else alive, can there??
« Last Edit: April 12, 2008, 12:25:10 PM by Þórgrímr »
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Offline Þórgrímr

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« Reply #49 on: April 10, 2008, 09:00:28 AM »
The party continued heading towards the stern of the ship. It seemed most of the internal areas of the ship had been twisted by the asteroid's impact, but near the center of its hull Hazel?s probe had located an area relatively intact, shielded from most of the destruction by the mass of the ship's armored power relays. They followed a corridor down into the ship, until they came to a wall of steel that had cut through the passage like a knife.
 
?The Asteroid must have forced back this bulkhead,? Rama said, his eyes on his probe?s screen, ?there?s minimal atmosphere on the other side.?
 
?Any way to get in without compromising the seal?? Sempronius asked as he ran his hand over the ship?s bulkhead, feeling it?s smooth surface through the pressure nodes in his gauntlet.
 
?Some sort of chamber ten yards to our right,? Rama answered, ?it could be an airlock. I don?t see a connecting corridor on our side, I think we?ll have to cut through.?
 
?Salonius, use your laser, tightest possible beam. Be careful,? Sempronius added.  With only the possibility of an atmosphere, and an unstable one at that, the hand-held flamethrowers had been left behind.

Salonius adjusted the confinement beam on his laser, then fired the weapon on its lowest power setting. Rama kept watch on the structure of the corridor as the heat from the laser began to cut through the wall, noting that the damage seemed to be having no serious consequences to the wreck?s stability. After a moment Salonius had cut away three edges of a rectangle of metal large enough to move through once he had bent it inwards. The red-hot cuts quickly cooled, and Sempronius stepped through. The bulkhead continued through to his left, disappearing through the corridor?s opposite wall.
 
?There?s a junction five yards to the right,? Rama said, ?we should be able to get through to the airlock from there.?

Sempronius led the way to the junction, turning into a short passage that ran parallel to the folded back bulkhead. When he judged he had gone far enough along the passage he found a doorway, half-open, leading back towards the bulkhead. He forced it open a little further and ducked into the room beyond. It had been a maintenance station of some sort, the walls lined with racks for tools and replacement parts. Most of the parts lay against the other bulkhead, obviously thrown there during the collision with the asteroid that had struck the ship.

The room?s technician was hanging to the side, speared through by a part of the bulkhead?s frame that had been driven cleanly through the deck and into the ceiling. The loss of atmosphere had preserved the body, but his skin looked dry, brittle. Sempronius passed by the corpse and cleared some of the parts from the intruding bulkhead, finding what seemed to be an airlock beneath, at a slight angle to the deck.
 
?Is this safe to open?? He asked.
 
Hazel, who had stifled a gasp when she had seen the floating body of the crewman, ran her probe over the airlock?s surface. ?The inner door scans as secure, no decay in the seal. It should be alright.? Sempronius nodded and took hold of the handle set into the airlock door.

?Brace yourselves,? he warned, as he felt the door?s locks give way. ?Inside pressure,? he said when the door refused to move, ?Salonius, grab ahold of me.? Salonius grasped Sempronius?s E-Suit around the waist, and the Navarchus planted his boots on the deck and pushed against the door, driving his E-suit?s limited strength enhancers to their limit. There was a tiny motion from the door, then a rush of air from inside and the door swung open. Sempronius overbalanced, but Salonius? hold kept him from falling.
 
The inside of the airlock was unremarkable, merely a chamber with a door at each end. Rama checked the control panel beside the inner door, and confirmed that there was still enough power in the system to use it. Hazel, the last into the airlock, pulled the outer door shut behind her and locked it. At the press of a button on the door controls air hissed into the chamber. Once the pressure had risen far enough the inner door opened automatically, revealing a dusty corridor, dimly lit by a yellow light set into its roof. Sempronius stepped out of the airlock, and felt his stomach lurch as the ship?s gravity took hold. He deactivated his magnetic boots and looked around as the other three joined him. The four deactivated their life support once Rama had confirmed that the environment was safe, their helmets sliding neatly back into the collars of their E-Suits.
 
?Still no life signs,? Rama reported, ?one of the ship?s reactors is that way, it?s powering the lights and environmentals. There?s a faint power source the other way, I think it?s near the auxiliary bridge.?
 
?Check the reactor,? Sempronius said to Rama, motioning for Salonius to join him, ?make sure it?ll hold out, look for any signs of life. Ms Dickson, with me. We?ll check the bridge.? Hazel nodded and followed the Navarchus along the corridor, towards the front of the ship, as Salonius and Rama vanished into the dim light behind them.

                                                            ***

?We?re in the reactor room, Navarchus,? Rama said, his voice faint through the comm unit in Sempronius? E-suit, ?we?ve found evidence of repairs subsequent to the impact, but some of the power relays are breaking down. Request permission to effect repairs to environmental systems??

?If you think it?s safe,? Sempronius answered, ?we?re on the auxiliary bridge now. No sign of life, but some of the main core databanks are still intact; Commander Dickson thinks we might be able to retrieve the logs. Do what you can, then come forward and meet us on the auxiliary bridge.?

?Affirmative,? came the reply, a second before the comm channel went silent. Sempronius went back to helping Hazel in her efforts to access the uncooperative databanks.
 
?Connect processor cores three and five,? Sempronius called to Hazel, who had crawled into the service duct behind the auxiliary bridge?s main display console, ?I think that?s the logs section, at least according to these schematics it is. Run power through them, then we can try to clear up some of the third series databanks.? A moment later the single undamaged screen flickered into life, displaying an archaic interface it had given him many language options. Sempronius selected the Latin language option for the review function and began to read the log entries.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2008, 06:38:17 PM by Þórgrímr »
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« Reply #50 on: April 11, 2008, 09:37:04 AM »
Lying on her back in the cramped service duct, Hazel began to carefully rewire the databank accesses, bringing power into more of the damaged memory core. A lot of the ancient computer system had been burned out by an electrical fire, but enough remained that some information might still be retrieved from it. Patiently, Hazel began work on the first of the undamaged data modules in the upper of the three-series databanks.
 
She had completed her work on twenty modules when she felt a bead of sweat trickle down her cheek. She remembered feeling cold in the ship?s corridors, but guessed that the confined space was preventing the heat from escaping. The main computer core was right below her to, she could hear the dim whirring as heat sinks came back to life with each module repaired. No doubt the duct would get hotter after a while. Hazel wondered whether she should switch back to her E-Suit?s life support, then decided to leave it for a while. The helmet?s vision, while excellent for space-walking, was not suited to minute repair work.
 
She felt something touch her leg, and looked down to see a stray wire lying across her boot. She reached down to brush it aside, but her hand stopped halfway, caught on a thin conduit hanging from the duct roof. She tried to pull free, but another wire snaked down, wrapping around her wrist. She reached for the pistol on her belt, but her free hand was caught and pulled away from the holster. She tried to kick free, but more tendrils were wrapping around her limbs, making it harder to move. She saw them breaking through the seals of her E-Suit?s joints, and running behind her neck, over her shoulders inside the E-Suit. She opened her mouth to scream, but choked instead as a mass of metal blocked her throat. Something wrapped across her eyes, and she saw no more.

                                                            ***

Rama glanced across the handful of intact screens that showed the status of the ship?s reactor. Someone had already made repairs after the initial impact, but it was obvious that they had lacked both materials and the experience. The reactor core itself, somewhere below the deck, was still running smoothly, albeit on minimum output, but the bypass circuitry was suffering from fatigue, and the junctions were beginning to show the stresses of overuse. Only five remained, of the forty that had been built into the reactor?s distribution system, and they had not been designed to carry the load of the entire environmental system. For the last two hours Rama had been doing what he could in the way of rewiring the brittle circuitry, taking some of the weight off of the more fragile junctions so that the environmentals would keep operating.
 
It was while he was rerouting one of the hundreds of tiny charge capillaries that he heard movement behind him. At first he thought that Salonius had returned from the deck above, where he had gone in search of a parallel cable, but when he turned towards the door leading to the access ladders the figure occupying the doorway was a young child. Rama guessed she was no more than ten, probably less. Her skin was stained slightly gray, except on her face and hands where the dirt had been cleaned. She wore a grimy one-piece coverall, with a faded rectangle where a nametag had once been. She was looking up at Rama with an expression of patient interest, her eyes only slightly wide.
 
?Who are you?? Rama asked, when he had found his voice. The child shrugged, as if to indicate that she didn?t think the question important.
 
?You needn?t be afraid, we?re here to help,? Rama offered. ?Are there more people here??
 
?Yes,? the child said in a thin voice.
 
?Can you take me to them? It?s very important.? The child tilted her head to the side, as if listening to something.
 
?They?re waiting,? she whispered, ?you?ll see them soon.? The child?s voice echoed around the reactor room, melting into a soft background noise that sounded almost like a heartbeat. Rama spun around as the sound grew louder behind him.

He lifted his head from the console, and nearly fell from his chair. He glanced from side to side, but found the room empty. The doorway leading to the ladders was dark, and as he stopped moving and listened he could hear nothing but the low hum of the reactor core below him. His arms had been folded on the console, cradling his head, and he found himself blinking away the haze of sleepy eyes.

He looked briefly at the screen displaying the readouts for the environmentals, visible despite the crack that ran across the glass. Air pressure was still lower than normal, within safe parameters, but perhaps low enough to make him drowsy. He glanced back at the power relays, resolving to speed up the repairs to bring the atmosphere processors up to capacity, so far as was possible.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Þórgrímr »
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If you want peace, prepare for war
 

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« Reply #51 on: April 12, 2008, 09:20:01 AM »
?Ms Dickson. Hazel!?
 
Hazel?s eyes blinked open, and she stared up into a ceiling light for a moment, trying to place herself. Then her memory returned and she jerked upright, arms flailing, trying to free herself. But there was nothing holding her limbs, only a pair of hands on her shoulders. She turned to see Navarchus Longinus, looking concerned, holding her to prevent her from falling off the reclined bridge chair she had been lying on.

?What,? Hazel began, then her head turned to look down at the access port several yards away, which led to the duct she had been working in. ?In there,? she began again, trying to call her thoughts to order.
 
?It?s alright,? Sempronius said, ?you just took a minor shock. No serious damage, nothing to worry about.? Hazel stared blankly for a moment. ?One of the modules overloaded and discharged through the plasma grid,? Sempronius explained, ?it knocked you out, and your E-Suit auto-sealed and triggered my alarm. You?ve been unconscious for about an hour.?
 
?I remember wires,? Hazel said weakly, ?something attacked me. Wasn?t there anything there??
 
?Nothing, you?re fine.? Hazel thought for a moment, feeling the memories slipping away, becoming distant and vague, just like a dream. She looked down at her E-Suit, and found the joint seals intact, never broken.

?The ship?s log is back online, along with the recorder,? Sempronius continued. ?There are entries going forward almost twenty years after this ship was hit.?
 
?After? The crew survived??
 
?It seems so. A lot of the data is corrupted beyond retrieval, but there?s enough to piece together. As Lt Toulon surmised this is a sleeper ship from Earth, transporting refugees to their new homeworld, but the exact flight plan is missing. During the trip they were attacked by those spider-like aliens, and the ship's drive system was damaged. They were able to drive off the attackers but they drifted for something like six months until the ship was struck by the asteroid that wedged itself into the hull. About a quarter of the passengers survived, along with some of the crew, enough to patch up life support and they continued to drift in Scipio's Oort cloud.?
 
?But twenty years,? Hazel asked, ?how could they last that long??
 
?I?m not sure,? Sempronius answered, ?but there are a few references to expeditions for supplies. I think they tunneled into the undamaged sections of the ship they could reach, and found enough to live on. The recorder entries are more and more infrequent the longer after the impact it gets, it?s more difficult to work out what was happening.?
 
?Do you think there may still be survivors here??

?I don?t know,? Sempronius said, glancing around the auxiliary bridge. The date codes on the ship?s log are almost eight thousand years old. Salonius and Rama are scouting the perimeter of the habitable zone still with an atmosphere for access to other sections, we?ll see if there are any signs of life.?

                                                            ***

Twenty decks below, Salonius edged around a corner with caution. He had not become a Fumum Vendere by assuming the best of an unknown situation. Never-the-less he was increasingly of the opinion that the ship had not been inhabited for more than a couple of millennia. Everywhere he looked he saw layers of dust, and no sign of recent movement.

Ancient systems had been repaired, and then simply left to fall back into inactivity as decay set in. Machines that had broken down had no longer been stripped for parts and materials; useful equipment lay connected to burned-out power sources. He had seen - once or twice - the aftermath of ships set adrift. When there were survivors, every failed system was cannibalized to keep others working, no effort was spared to keep the ship running for as long as possible. Here, once, this had happened, but at some point it seemed as if all activity had stopped, and the ship was left to itself. Salonius would have supposed that the survivors finally died, were it not for the fact that, among the dozens of rooms he had checked, cabins, stores, common rooms and equipment bays, he had found no sign of their bodies.

While he moved his shadow was cast by the dim emergency lights that lit the corridors. As he moved on the light streamed back in his place, but the shadows did not entirely vanish. Instead they swirled after him, vague half-patterns on the walls and floor, merging with each other, becoming darker the further he went into the ship. As he paused, outside an airlock, they drew themselves up behind him, flowing up the wall and onto the ceiling. Thin tendrils of darkness reached out towards him.
 
?Navarchus,? he said into his comm unit. The shadows dissolved in an instant, like a mist broken by sunlight.
 
?Go ahead Salonius,? the answering voice said. Salonius was peering through the airlock?s grimy viewport.
 
?I?m at an airlock twenty decks down, search grid A-twelve. I think I?ve found where the survivors went.? He heard Sempronius? reply, although he continued to stare through the airlock viewport at the tunnel that had been bored through the solid rock of the asteroid beyond, lit by light panels bolted to its roof, stretching away beyond vision into the heart of the asteroid.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Þórgrímr »
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If you want peace, prepare for war
 

Offline Þórgrímr

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« Reply #52 on: April 13, 2008, 08:12:02 AM »
?Four hundred yards,? Rama called, eyes on his probe which was silently mapping the tunnel as the four ventured further into the asteroid. Several shafts had branched off the tunnel, some fallen in or purposefully sealed off, but Sempronius? curiosity led him to continue ahead. Light was coming from ahead, edging around the bends in the tunnel like a mist, quite obviously different to the dim, cold glow of those light panels that still functioned in the ceiling of the tunnel.
 
Salonius, leading, turned the corner with his laser rifle at the ready. The probe was having some trouble scanning ahead, and despite a continuing lack of any sort of life signs Sempronius knew well enough to remain cautious. For a moment Salonius? eyes darted about, searching for any targets, then his mind caught up and his trained battle stance, learned so well it was an instinct, vanished. His laser lowered, and he merely stared ahead, eyes raised slightly.
 
Sempronius checked for a moment, but seeing no sign of danger he quickly joined Salonius where the tunnel made a sharp turn. He too looked ahead, then up. ?By the Gods,? he whispered. He took a step forward, as if to make sure he was not staring into some illusion. Ahead of him, above him, stretched a great city. Brilliant light shone from above, artificial but given the color and warmth of sunlight, down onto towers and domes linked by thin bridges.

Lower down the light reflected from the buildings, shining among forests that rose between them, here and there glittering from the surface of a lake. Sempronius, a step ahead of Salonius and the other two who had joined them, stood on a platform fifty yards from the ground, joined to one of the city?s walkways by a long, curving ramp that followed the slight curve of the wall. From this, and the look of the false sky above, Sempronius knew the place was contained in a dome, but he could not see the other side, even in gaps between the nearest of the towers.
 
?This must be an old asteroid generation-ship,? Rama said, quickly adjusting his probe, ?there are fragments of records about them from before the Exodus.?
 
?No wonder they stopped bothering with the repairs back on the derelict,? Hazel said, walking to the edge of the platform and leaning over the rail, looking down onto the edge of a thriving garden dotted with taller trees, ?why bother, when everything they could have wanted was right here??

?Still no life signs,? Rama said. Sempronius had been about to ask, and was pleased that the American was getting more comfortable with the Roman equipment and his duties in the face of the unexpected spectacle. ?Power readings, low-level bio-signs from the plant life, all normal for a comparable artificial environment,? he went on, ?everything seems to be as it should be.?

?But no people,? Sempronius said scratching his head in wonderment. He had been visually scanning the towers and domes, searching for any sign of movement, and had found nothing.
 
?Perhaps they all died,? Salonius suggested, ?after all, it has been thousands of years.?
 
?Perhaps,? Sempronius agreed, ?but if they?re all dead, I want to see the graves, so to speak. Let?s go.? Quickly resuming their patrol formation the four moved down the ramp and into the city.

The scattered trees, which seemed to be placed for their aesthetic value rather than oxygen generation, gave way to a wide avenue, paved in light gray tiles that had the appearance of marble, although Sempronius had seen such a material before and knew it to be synthetic. The avenue led between the first low buildings and domes, towards one of the higher towers. Just before reaching the base of the tower it split in two, traveling to either side of a shallow pool surrounding a fountain, which, in defiance of age, still slowly circulated the water. Nowhere was there any sign of human or alien life, nor any sign that there had been any.
 
?Lieutenant Toulon,? Sempronius said as the four reached the other side of the fountain?s pool, where the tower?s base opened in a low, wide archway, ?if this place is truly a generation-ship there will be a terminal to the main memory core in each building. Find it and download all the information you can.? Rama nodded and unhooked his probe from his belt, following Hazel into the archway. Salonius glanced up at the tower then followed.
 
Sempronius was about to do likewise when he felt as if he had heard something behind him. Turning, he realized it was an absence of sound he had noticed, the fountain had run dry. He looked at it for a moment, wondering if its timing was mere coincidence, then stared as the outlets of the fountain filled again, this time unmistakably with blood, thick and so dark as to be almost black. The first droplet fell to the water below, quickly dispersing in a thin red slick reaching out across the sparkling surface.
 
Sempronius blinked, and it was gone. His ears again heard the trickling sound of the water, issuing from the fountain clear and untainted. Sempronius closed his eyes for a moment then looked again, but again there was nothing. He retrieved his probe and began to scan the water as Salonius returned to see what had delayed him.
 
?Problem, Navarchus?? He asked.

Sempronius frowned as the probe gave every indication that the fountain pool was without anomalies. ?I don't know,? he said after hesitating, ?I may have imagined it, but I could have sworn there was blood in the water for a moment.?

Salonius frowned and looked into the clear water, but he knew better than to doubt Sempronius? word.

?Perhaps nothing,? Sempronius continued, ?but be on the lookout anyway.?
 
Rama had already located a data terminal and begun the long task of raiding the generation-ship?s remaining memory archives. ?A lot of its data files are missing,? he explained, ?navigation, flight records, all gone. I think there may have been more of these domes in the original ship, but this was the only one to survive the impact with the derelict. The others were either destroyed outright or lost too much of their support machinery to sustain themselves.?
 
?Did the survivors from the derelict live here?? Sempronius asked. Rama looked uncertain for a moment.

?I think so,? he said eventually, ?but I don?t know what happened to them. The maintenance records show a lot of systems being brought to full activity at the same time. Lighting, internal heating, oxy-generation, all the systems that can be switched to low power while people aren?t living here. I think that?s when the survivors found this place and started living here. But then it all shut down again.?

?But this place is operating at full capacity now, isn?t it?? Sempronius asked. ?There?s full daylight outside, all the buildings are heated, the atmosphere's perfect for humans as well as the plants.?

?I know,? Rama said hesitantly, ?but according to the power traces all the support systems have been on full capacity for no more than a few weeks. Before that it was saving power, just like it had until the survivors from the derelict found it.?
 
?Damned unusual,? Sempronius thought out loud, ?I don?t like this. Let?s assume that the dome?s reactivation coincided with it being found by the Diana. What does that mean??
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Þórgrímr »
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If you want peace, prepare for war
 

Offline Þórgrímr

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« Reply #53 on: April 14, 2008, 07:41:31 AM »
?Perhaps some sort of suspension system,? Hazel offered, ?if the people here used cryo-freezing or something like it, and our approach triggered the reactivation and woke them up, but then they?d be here waiting.?
 
?And they?d have had no way of knowing we were nearby,? Salonius said, ?we haven?t found any sort of sensor systems that could detect a ship outside the asteroid.?
 
?There are rumors and stories of... things that can come through the Gates of Apollo,? Sempronius said warily, ?things that supposedly live there in hyperspace.?
 
?We?d have been attacked already,? Salonius said with caution filling his voice.?
 
?Perhaps we have been attacked,? Sempronius speculated, ?psychically. I thought I saw blood in the water outside for a moment. And Ms Dickson, you said you were attacked while you were repairing the memory databanks.?
 
?I thought the machine came alive,? she said with a shudder, ?but it wasn?t real. Was it?? Sempronius shook his head no.
 
?I thought I saw one of the crash survivors while I was repairing life support,? Rama said. ?I thought I?d fallen asleep and dreamed it.?
 
?What if all this is someone, or something trying to get into our minds?? Salonius asked.
 
?And we?ve been going deeper into the ship and asteroid all the while,? Sempronius stated. ?No more. There aren?t any people here, and we?re leaving. Salonius, take point, full probe scans the whole way. Rama, I want you to look for any energy that could be psychic, no matter how remote the chance. Stop the download of the generation-ship?s memory; we?ll take whatever it?s already got. Let?s move.?
 
Salonius was on his feet in an instant, suddenly seeming more alive now that the mysteries had been put aside. Rama uncoupled his probe from the data terminal and began adjusting it to scan for psychic energy as best it could, following Sempronius with Hazel covering from behind. As soon as Salonius reached the archway leading out of the tower the dome?s light dimmed and vanished.
 
?We?ll call that confirmation of the theory,? Sempronius said, as the four of them activated the forward-facing spotlights built into their E-Suits. Salonius reached the edge of the pool of water and stopped, motioning for Sempronius to come forward. Beyond the Fumum Vendere, bathed in the light from his E-Suit, was a small child, seemingly standing on the surface of the water.

?Rama,? Sempronius hissed. The young American directed his probe at the child.
 
?Reading nothing there,? he whispered in return, ?but that?s the one I dreamed of before.?
 
?What are you?? Sempronius said, raising his voice again. The child smiled faintly, looking at each person in turn before her eyes settled on Sempronius.

She opened her mouth, her voice a whisper that barely carried across the distance between them. ?We are this place,? she said, ?we discovered it and made it our own. And in time it took us in, and we became one.?

?What do you want from us?? Sempronius asked.
 
?We are hungry,? whispered the child. She raised a hand, and darkness flooded out of it, enveloping the four of them before they could react.

Sempronius found his surroundings melting away, and finally there was nothing. He tried to raise his laser pistol, but found his hand empty. His rifle, gladius, even his E-Suit was gone. And before him was the derelict, a massive continent of steel and ice. As he looked its surface twisted and bulged, forming a gigantic face, itself composed of hundreds, thousands of tiny faces, all writhing silently, screaming without being heard. The derelict rose up like an ancient ogre, metal and ice forming the outlines of huge shoulders and arms, and reached out an enormous claw towards the defenseless Navarchus. He closed his eyes.
 
?A spiritu sanctu," he whispered soundlessly, ?Domine, from the lightning and the tempest, may God deliver us.? He felt the massive fingers close around him, pressing against him. ?From plague, deceit, temptation and war, may God deliver us.? It began to crush him, but at the same time the sensation was changing, the rough, cold texture of the giant?s hand melting away. ?From the scourge of the Kraken, may God deliver us.? The hand closed tighter, but the pressure seemed to fade away. Sempronius found that, instead of the crushing claw, he was feeling the comforting, familiar touch of his E-Suit?s inner surface, with its thousands of tiny feedback sensors. ?From the blasphemy of Lucifer - mortuus diabolus nec deus, nec arch angelus - may God deliver us.? Once again he felt the reassuring weight of his pistol in his grip. He opened his eyes.
 
?From the begetting of demons,? he said aloud, advancing through the shallow water towards the child, who fell back with every step, ?may God deliver us!? Gathering his breath he shouted out the final portion of the battle cry of the "Quo Generi Christus" - the sons of Christ -  "Libera me ex mortuis, Domine omnipotens! Dum veneris iudicare! Domine, libera me! Libera me! Libera me!!" *

He raised the laser pistol and fired. The child vanished, her image being whipped into nothing, like mist, as the bolt passed through and blew the center out of the pool?s fountain behind her. Sempronius turned to see the other three recovering, raising their weapons again.
 
?Psychic vampires, fight them,? he said simply, leading the four of them away from the tower, ?they'll attack in your mind, so fight them there. Pray to whatever God you believe in, but remember the Gods, and be protected by your faith.?

A roar echoed through the darkness, and all four of them suddenly heard the sounds of movement around them, growing nearer. ?And for everything else,? Sempronius continued, ?lets lock, cock and get ready to rock.? He said as he flipped the charging switch on his laser rifle to the on position.


NOTE: Yes, the cat is now definitely out of the bag,  :wink:  Sempronius IS a member of the Cult of the Carpenter, specifically the Order of Quo Generi Christus, The Sons of Christ. An order in line with the Knights Hospitalers in our world.

* The translation is as follows: Free me from death, All-powerful Lord! Until your loving judgement! Lord, Free me! Free me! Free Me!
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Þórgrímr »
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If you want peace, prepare for war
 

Offline Þórgrímr

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« Reply #54 on: April 15, 2008, 09:23:19 AM »
No sooner had he said this than a shape lunged at him, slashing wildly with clawed appendages. Training took over, and Sempronius sent a bolt into the creature?s head without a thought. His spotlight revealed the headless carcass of a spider alien for a moment, then it vanished like a cloud of smoke, dispersing into nothing. Sempronius readied another magazine for his rifle in one hand, while firing again at a second shape scuttling towards him, zig-zagging in and out of the beam of his spotlight. Laser fire sounded on both sides of him as the four of them came under attack from all manner of creatures, all of the things drawn from their worst nightmares.

Sempronius seated the magazine into the well on the rifle then drew his gladius and pushed forward, stabbing with his gladius at the creatures ahead of him, driving them back as his companions fired round after round into the things that clawed at them from the shadows on either side. Reaching the edge of the ramp leading out of the dome, Sempronius sheathed his gladius and pulled his laser pistol from its place beneath his rucksack. Bracing the rifle against his elbow he fired both rifle and pistol, cutting a path through the shapeless things that poured down the ramp towards him. Hazel was on one side of him, slamming a new magazine into her pistol and firing back to cover as Rama and Salonius started up the ramp, the Fumum Vendere clearing the way with his laser rifle while Rama fired down into the creatures scrambling towards their rearguard. Sempronius slapped a hand onto Hazel?s shoulder plate, sending her up the ramp, then followed, rifle firing as he reloaded his pistol one-handed.
 
By the time he reached the beginning of the tunnel, where its light spread onto the edge of the ramp, his rifle was empty. As he raised his pistol Salonius stepped up beside him and lowered his laser, cutting away the ramp a few yards behind them, causing a section to collapse down into the dark forest below.
 
?If they?re trying to look like big bugs,? he yelled over the noise of Hazel and Rama clearing the tunnel ahead of them, ?they can?t fly!? Sempronius saw that the creatures behind them had indeed been slowed, some overbalancing and tumbling into the darkness, others trying to leap the gap. A thing shaped like a Han pirate landed a gauntlet on the edge of the ramp, its hand warping to keep its grip, and Salonius stepped forward and slammed the barrel of his rifle into its fingers, sending it backwards into the dark, its shape twisting as it tried to stretch itself out to reach him.
 
Sempronius and Salonius backed into the tunnel as Rama and Hazel pushed forward. Sempronius replaced Hazel in the front, confident that she and Salonius would be able to hold the things behind them at bay while they moved away from the generation-ship. In the tight confines of the rock tunnel the numbers of the beasts didn?t come into play, and they were cut down more easily by their weapons. It was as they were starting to progress forward at a faster pace that Sempronius felt a pressure in his mind again.

?They?re trying the mind games again,? he called, ?have faith! For the Gods!? He began reciting the Sons of Christ's battle-prayer over and over in his mind. To his side Rama, whose eyes had gone wide for a moment at something his mind had seen, grimaced and continued pouring laser fire into the shapes ahead of them. Sempronius noticed his lips silently moving, and recognized the shapes made by some sort of prayer to a God called Jesus. He glanced back for a moment, seeing Salonius and Hazel still keeping up their rearguard.
 
?Navarchus,? Rama called, and Sempronius turned back to see a giant shape blocking their path. It seemed composed of everything he had ever felt fear at the sight of, from the shapes of a hundred monsters to the insane glare in the eyes of a fanatic or a dark cultist. He motioned for Rama to stay back, and drew his gladius once again.
 
?No good,? he said, ?we won?t fall for your mind tricks anymore.? He felt the pressure in his mind, and saw the creature trying to reach out to him, but its mental claws rebounded off the prayer reciting itself endlessly. Then it warped, twisting into a new shape. Sempronius gasped in recognition as it became almost human, its face a macabre caricature of evil, but one he remembered. When he had seen the face before it was a Han pirate, a criminal lord he had not seen since his childhood. It tried again to frighten him, probing through his mind for old nightmares, but again it couldn?t break through the prayer, and this time he had a weapon to answer it as anger welled up and flooded back down the mental link it had opened.
 
?Bad move,? he growled, raising his gladius. As it thrust towards the creature its eyes for a moment showed fear, then it was gone, its severed head dissolving before it hit the ground.
 
?Come on,? he said to the others, realizing that the sound of laser fire had stopped, ?they must be getting weaker the further away we get. Remember your prayers.? He strode forward, scanning the tunnel for further signs of movement but finding nothing. Salonius and Hazel kept watch behind them, but apart from the occasional, weak pressure in their thoughts nothing further reached for them.
 
Hazel was last through the airlock back into the derelict, sealing it behind her. Sempronius silently reached out a hand to Salonius, taking the laser and turning it to its lowest beam setting. He quickly welded the airlock shut, then paused and raised the barrel to point just below the grimy porthole looking through the doorway. He carefully burned a triple-pointed star into the metal, each point ending in a tiny crescent, the Imperial symbol for Quarantine.
 
?Let?s get out of here,? he said, handing the laser back to Salonius. He had the Fumum Vendere burn the same symbol into the airlock leading into the ship from the vacuum-opened portion of the derelict, then paused for a moment, regarding the desiccated corpse of the technician, floating motionless in his corner of the room. He retrieved a tiny vial from a pouch on his belt, opening it to let a few drops of water out, and watched as they floated in perfect spheres, splashing on the millennia?s-dead man like tiny raindrops on a desert.
 
?Ieshua watch over you,? he said, touching his forehead, chest and then his shoulders in the age-old gesture invoking his deity. Rama echoed the gesture then, one by one, they filed out of the chamber, heading back to their ship.

Far beneath them, on the airlock sealing the tunnel through the rock, a shadow passed across the metal. When it had gone the surface was clean, with no trace of the symbol burned into it. Beyond it, the lights in the tunnel died one by one, and the asteroid was again lifeless, waiting.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Þórgrímr »
Sic vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war
 

 

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