The Illuna Paradox: Temporal Shift

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Gable and Dares sat silently whilst the others stood around them like hovering vultures circling their prey; truthfully they were just tired of waiting.

The station crew stood watching Gable and Dares weave through endless bandwidths of static; it was as if the incoming message did not want to be heard. After ten minutes of constant re-tuning of the signal receiving antennae, the message came through as clear as day, it was as if it had been delaying its transmission on purpose.

‘To all Cideen Republic space assets in the region of Warden star system, this is the Republic cruiser ‘Ascendance’ our communic... relays have....blown, weapons...offline, enemy ships in...area..launch.. survival boats.. life supp... failing nowhere to go..req...assistance immediately...say again...request assist (message end)’.

‘What the hell is going on now?’ Gable puzzled.

‘The 'Ascendance' was presumed lost in Warden star system eighty five years ago, they received this same message then, it’s still in the damn logs!’ he cried.

‘What? How is that even possible Professor? First we had that bloody creature and now we are talking to the dead?’ Dares questioned.

‘There has to be some kind of explanation for this message guys, maybe it is the same message and has somehow been preserved in the cold, dead of space, that is within the ship’s black box logging system.’ another crew member suggested.

Gable appeared to be even more concerned now after checking over the message properties once more, when he began to speak again.

‘I am sorry to ruin your day guys but erm...well... this message has been dated to this day and is being broadcasted as a current crash site!’ he said.

‘How could that ruin our day? This is great news! I doubt that the crew would have survived this long but anything is possible in this place right P...’ one of the lingering station technicians began to say.

‘The reason why this is bad news and frankly, is scaring the hell outta me is that the crash site is not listed as being in Warden star system...this supposed crash site is eighty seven star systems away from here, and it is just outside of the limits of human occupied space' he roared, the frustration gnawing at him as he spoke.

'I mean for crying out loud we haven’t even had a chance to explore there yet have we?’ Gable finished abruptly, unable to hold back his sudden outburst this time.

Silence was becoming an all too common phenomenon within this star system lately.

‘Okay, I found it Professor, the records state that we had managed to explore and colonize one thousand two hundred and thirty three star systems within this arm of the galaxy’ Dares reported.

‘Yeah, I remember reading an old article some time ago which said that we were making more and more progress with our colonization efforts. The government had even issued a statement to the press which explained that we were aiming to colonize star systems within every direction; we had even reached the outer limits of the galaxy arm; that is across the width of the arm. Yeah that’s it! Warden was later classified as a frontier cornerstone of the Republic.’ Another crew member said, chiming into the conversation.

Everyone nodded in recollection of the almost forgotten historical data.

‘Well according to our archives, we had sent out automated reconnaissance probes of the star systems within the surrounding area of this supposed crash site along time ago. It seems that the government had lost interest in that area but the files were all classified. Damn curious now though! So we have surveyed that star system already apparently, but the president didn’t say a word about it...Benjamin he’s a friend of yours right? Do you think that he knows?’ Dares questioned, skepticism showing through her tightly knit eyes.

‘No no, he is as honest as it gets, I know him...that information was classified hundreds of years ago, according to the archive seal. Maybe the government just forgot about it after so long. It makes sense I guess; we were interested in colonizing many other star systems’ Gable replied sagely.

‘It appears that we left that sector of space alone and progressed in every other direction instead' Gable added.

'Wait...these readings have to be off, what do you mean the derelict wreck is now being reported as being in a different star sys...’ another crew member remarked.

‘Take a look for yourself sonny! Not only was the ship lost in this star system eighty five years ago, the message that had been recorded eighty five years ago is the exact same message that we have just received again with the exact same fleet ID that ‘Ascendance’ used back then. This damn ship has somehow ended up eighty seven star systems away, outside of the republic, presumably with no surviving crew members or working life support...theories anyone?’ Gable questioned hopelessly.

Silence once again threatened to drive everyone off of the edge of sanity. After hours of thinking and restlessness and the lingering thought that there was nothing that they could do for the crew of ‘Ascendance’, especially since that ship was apparently no longer a derelict shipwreck drifting somewhere within the Warden star system, like so many other vessels surely were. They were still in dire need of answers.

This evening must have been twice as long as the last one, or at least it felt that way for the crew following the unusual events that had taken place over the last couple of days. Ideas of what he could discover at the wreck of ‘Ascendance’ had gnawed at Gable all night long when one idea had finally struck him as being plausible.

It was six o’clock in the morning, station time when Gable called for his fellow crew members to meet up in the lounge area where he would discuss his idea with the rest of them.

‘Okay guys, I strongly believe that we need to do something about the wreck of ‘Ascendance’! We owe it to her crew and the descendants of her crew to recover the ship!’ Gable announced.

A slender female member of the station crew with a short golden coloured hair, which simply demanded ones attention spoke up next, with a form of confidence that none of the crew were feeling at that moment.

‘I agree Professor we must do something as we are the only ones who can and we must do this because this could fall under the ruling of our current standing orders to act as a search and rescue base for anyone in need of assistance out here in dark space.’ she said.

‘Nicely put kid, Alright then, it appears that we have no choice in the matter but how we accomplish it is the tricky part.’ Gable replied.

‘Well we can’t take a ship out there to look that’s for sure. For one thing, it would not end well in any way and two it is technically prohibited for us, as well as the public to traverse the system, unless we already know what we are looking for, and all of this providing that it is in fact located relatively close to the station.’ another crew member reflected.

‘I got it, ah crap, no...erm sorry guys it’s a terrible idea...’ another crew member deliberated.

‘Hey come on kid that is more than any of us have come up with let’s hear it?’ asked Gable.

‘Alright Professor, well I was just thinking that we could use two or three unmanned surveillance probes to survey the route to the crash-site location within the system, and document the footage on the way in case there is anything else out there as well.’

Gable stood up with precision, his hand covering his mouth; he was in a deep train of thought.

‘That’s an excellent idea...Adrian Kern...we must make a note of this idea for the record, you know what they say about due credit and all.’ he chuckled.

‘Thank you professor’ Kern replied, smiling in acceptance of the praise.

‘It is a fact that we only have three probes to last us four months and we will be borrowing two of them for this mission, but on the other hand it’s not like we aren't using them for a just cause, right?’ Gable pondered.

‘Very well we shall launch two surveillance probes at nine am station time and conduct a survey of the last known location of the ‘Ascendance’ as well as the area of space leading up to it.’ Gable finished.

They were commonly termed probes hundreds of years ago because of their similar functions to that of an ancient probe device and for their intended purpose which was to survey designated areas of space.

Their design layout actually resembled that of a small raft; and they had been modified over the past 10 years so that they would show an increase in their capabilities and their performance.

The small sized probe raft had been equipped with four heavy tractor beams, two signal trackers and two signal receivers as a precaution that in the likely event the raft would get lost or damaged; especially throughout the outer systems, including Warden.

The capabilities of the small spacecraft had more than made up for its size since one small probe raft could tow almost any ship; this feature had made them ideal for search and rescue missions all across the outer edges of the empire.

Naturally of course none of the craft had actually been tested at Warden because of the all too likely scenario which would involve the rafts either crashing or being lost like every other ship out there; and also because they had been outrageously expensive to construct.

As the time approached to launch the probe rafts the crew had gathered within surveillance compartment one once more so that they were prepared to analyze any all of the footage that would be received from both of the surveys.

The members of the crew were nervous once again, yet this time they had a more steady confidence in the plan, and they had done well to express such a level of determination in order to allow everyone to remain focused on the task at hand.

Probe rafts one and two had smoothly exited the docking bay of the station, and with a roar of their engine thrusters, as they slightly increased their velocity; they were now travelling adjacent to each other within a narrow corridor which would hopefully, minimize the risk of them being lost before they could even discover something.

‘Please let things go smoothly for once, please...’ Gable prayed.

It had been four hours since the rafts had been launched, and they had already discovered some minor fragments of debris, but so far nothing conclusive, or even recognisable for that matter.

Five hours and fifty six minutes had passed.

‘What is this? I think that we may have something here, not what we are looking for especially, but what...’ Gable wondered out loud.

‘Oh crap, probe one is going to crash! Pull it away, damn it, damn it all, it’s too late! I guess that I asked for too much huh’. Gable cursed.

‘We must have had what...ten seconds footage of the drifting forward section of the vessel, let’s take a look now. Damn those bloody clouds, it’s a good job that we didn’t send a manned ship out there after all. Nice one Kern. Take a look at this footage Helena!’ Gable directed.

Gable was the only one who ever called Dares by her first name, perhaps it was because they were so close as a family, as for everyone else on the station though Dares had actually preferred the formality that came with the use of a crew member’s surname.

Immediately taking note of this, the crew had made an extra effort to avoid calling her by her first name within such a professional environment. Well for this reason and for them to avoid receiving the verbal equivalent, or perhaps even the physical equivalent of ten lashes.

‘Wow, is that the forward section of an ancient mining vessel? I have never seen such a design before now’. Gable reflected.

The once smoothly constructed forward section of the wreck lay battered and helpless in an eternal slumber. No power fluctuations, no signs of life, nothing.

The mining vessel had been dead for a long time, along with the countless other ships that had dared to brave Warden star system.

The derelict vessel had no beacons active and with it, no broadcasting capability. The Odysseus station probes had discovered this wreck purely by chance and it was as if the ship had revived in itself, a long lost hope for rescue that never would have arrived otherwise.

The visible forward section of the mining vessel had boasted four large turret hard-points where the video had revealed that there had been, what resembled, two larger versions of the current general deep core mining lasers; along with what could be, two large gas cloud harvesters along with other forms of antennae on the ship’s bow.

‘How is it that they could build ships a lot bigger in the past, as opposed to now?’ Dares questioned cautiously.

‘I don’t know kiddo; it sure is fascinating though, I mean just imagine meeting the mechanics who built this damn thing, now that would be one hell of a conversation’ Gable replied.

Dares just stared over at Gable with narrow eyes, watching him intently as he chuckled away to himself.

‘I do agree that it would be great to learn from those guys, but this ship is hundreds of years old right? As I said Professor, they could build them a lot bigger back then as opposed to now...all things aside, I have to say, something smells way off here, we are definitely missing something!’ she replied, while Gable slowly nodded in complete agreement.

Minutes had past and the crew could only stare at the mysterious derelict in amazement.

‘It isn’t possible to work out what ship it was, yet, although, we will need to conduct a thorough analysis of the thing in order to achieve this, on the other hand I don’t think that there can be many other mining ships out there with mammoth sized hard points like that, so it should be easy enough to identify’ Dares declared.

‘Some of the forward mining equipment even appears to be intact, which one could consider to be the archaeological discovery of the century, but that battle damage where the forward section had once been attached to the aft section? Holy crap! Those weapons must have torn clean through it,’ Dares proclaimed.

‘Yeah, it looks like particle laser and plasma damage, but none of our military or other ship types possess that capability yet. This raises yet another frustrating question doesn’t it?’ she added.

‘No kidding, well lets mark the location of the wreck for later, and we can see if we are able to haul it back to the station with the new portable tractor beams that I know you have been wanting to see Dares, I may even let you control them if you are good’. Gable promised, giving a not-so-subtle wink when he finished.

Kern looked to be in a trance as he spoke up next.

‘Hey Dares, I’ve been thinking about what you said before about the general difference in ship size and equipment from now and in the past, that is most certainly backwards. Adding to that, we also have that battle damage to take into consideration, which as far as I know, none of our ships, past or present have possessed that capability so there is the ugly question being, what the hell could do that to a ship?’ Kern finished.

‘More questions than answers it appears,’ she replied with a sigh and looked to Gable.

‘Alright everyone, I have done the numbers and one probe raft will not cut it for this task, we need to send out our last one to meet up with probe two and the derelict, and together they will be able to reel that beast of a ship in.’ Gable said.

Gable had decided not to mention his reservations about the fact that both of the probe rafts would barely be able to handle the stress that would be eating away at their power cores on this long, two day rescue operation, from having to tow something that they just weren't designed to tow.

‘On the bright side at least, by traveling so slow it should minimize the chance of there being anymore collisions’. He thought.

Following the heroic salvage attempt, at least there was some comfort in knowing that the crew would have done all that they could to retrieve the lost mining vessel.

Another hour had passed since the discovery of the mining ship, another hour of finalizing the plan as the crew discussed and weighed out the positive and negative factors that were involved in the successful rescue of the ship fragment.

‘Where is probe raft two at right now? Are we near the recorded crash site location from eighty five years ago?’ Gable asked.

‘Yeah we are here now, but I don’t see anyth...’ Dares began to reply.

‘Well I’ll be damned! At least we haven’t lost the probe raft this time around. I hope.’ Gable proclaimed, finishing with a prayer of thanks for their luck so far, yet he still feared the numerous, unknown possibilities that could be awaiting them in the very near future.

The atmosphere was so tense within the surveillance compartment of the Odysseus station at that moment; when suddenly, probe raft two finally reached the recorded crash site from eighty five years ago.

The crew had been scared of what they might find before when the message came in from ‘Ascendance’; they had hoped that the signal was a result of a system malfunction, yet the evidence presented before them had suggested otherwise.

There were indeed some large fragments of debris drifting within what appeared to be an open area of space where no asteroids or other features for that matter, could be identified; yet, there was no sign of a ship, derelict or not, there was nothing there that would explain the misplaced scattering of debris.

Once again the large fragments bore signs of a rather one sided battle. Whatever had killed the mining ship had also left its mark on the lonely, abandoned fragments of debris.

Each sample of unidentifiable wreckage, portraying similar scorch marks which would have likely come from a particle laser battery; or so a group of station engineers insisted.

The debris also displayed signs of heavy plasma damage where the loose fragments had originally been torn away from the once intact ship.

Whilst he began scanning through the images of the metallic fragments, Adrian Kern had deduced that the ship would have eventually succumbed to the apparent hail of fire that would have been thrown at it, by suffering through a series of crippling explosions that should have ensured a kill on the ship without a doubt. This being said, there was no ship to support the huge pile of evidence that the crew were in the process of gathering.

Frustrated and overly curious of the situation before them; the station crew decided to conduct a four hour long search of the immediate area surrounding the crash-site to be certain.

Four agonising hours later; there was still nothing, no traces of where the ship disappeared to, that is except from the actual current location of the transmitted emergency broadcast by the captain of ‘Ascendance’.

Following the failed search for ‘Ascendance’; it was clear that the only thing to do was to bring back what samples they could from the crash site by loading everything they could onto the raft, and placing pulse beacons where each fragment of debris had been recovered.

This would ensure that the crash-site was properly recorded for archaeological purposes, from which the crew would be able to create an in depth excavation report for the government. No doubt this report would detail every fact of the excavation as it should, but the attached notes from the crew would likely express their excitement at the wondrous discovery of the forward section that had once belonged to a huge, intact mining vessel for certain.

As for the mystery behind the ‘Ascendance’ crash-site though; many of the crew would instead be showing their frustration at how an already destroyed ship could simply disappear out of existence.

Whilst virtually traversing the route back to the station; the crew had finally decided to stop probe raft two at the mining vessel, while they had sent out probe raft three to rendezvous with two, and begin their operation.

Another painful three hours or so later; both probe rafts were at full power and they each had their heavy duty tractor beams fixated upon the corners of the mining vessel in an effort to ensure that their track trajectory had remained on course, and in a straight line back to the station.

This was indeed the hardest part; the waiting, especially when the wait was to accumulate to a total of around two days; the accuracy of this timeline depending upon nothing going wrong along the way of course.

‘There has to be something else we can be doing right now, Professor? Dares?’ Kern pleaded.

Professor Gable simply stared back at Kern, and then began to lecture him in a professional tone of voice about patience being a virtue in all archaeologists’, technicians’, historians’ and even the military, hell, especially the military.

‘You never heard of the old phrase, good things come to those who wait?’ Gable reprimanded him, realising that Kern had taken the verbal lashing quite hard.

‘Anyway Adrian, I do see where you are coming from, I really do, and I know the pressure you must be under right now, this being your plan and all. That is why we must be patient because if we rush this or if we don’t pay attention, then heads will roll, okay?’ Gable reassured him, hoping that the use of Kern’s first name would emphasise the trust that he had in the man.

‘Yeah, I understand Professor, just nervous I guess, but I will stay sharp and keep two eyes on the prize!’ Kern replied.

Gable turned then back to his work station, smiling reassuringly to himself after managing to remain calm, and with it, keep everyone else calm too.

Over a day had passed now; members’ of the crew had taken turns to monitor the situation outside, and realising that the operation would soon be coming to an end, everybody gathered within the surveillance compartment once again.

‘Only an hour or so left guys, I know we’re all tired and our shift rotations have been too few over the past two days, but if we can pull this off...well, we can sleep easy knowing that we were able to preserve a long lost artefact. We can learn so much from this. Let’s finish this operation together, I am proud of all of you’ Gable appraised.

The two day haul of the mining vessel was not without hindrance. There were moments where one of the tractor beams on probe craft two had intermittently cut out, as the power core had been put through its paces like never before, and therefore resulting in the misalignment of the vessel.

The slight misalignment could have been disastrous; yet luckily enough, the power shortage was only minor, and because there were two probe crafts in place, supporting each other throughout the journey, it had meant that the mining vessel section remained secure and on the correct docking trajectory towards the station.

Everything was going according to plan; that is until the crafts were approximately four thousand meters out from the station.

As the two probe rafts slowly approached the station whilst hauling the huge derelict behind them; it was easy enough to see that they were struggling as their manoeuvring thrusters were now firing sporadically, causing them to randomly decrease and then increase their speeds.

Only minutes away from docking now; and the clearly temperamental tractor beam on probe raft two had finally failed; and with more stress adding on to the tractor beams of probe raft three, they were also beginning to malfunction.

‘This is nerve wracking, we are so damn close!’ Gable whispered furiously to Dares, who nodded slowly in reply.

It appeared as if the derelict vessel was beginning to jaunt from left to right, as if the ship itself had self-revived again, and this time as a result, had wanted to escape from its delivering chains.

Once again, the crew just stared at the incoming artefact with all measure of hope, but at the same time they stared in horror; horror at the fact that the derelict vessel could break apart even more at any given moment.

This was especially the case; since the failing tractor beams were effectively being held together by prayer more than anything else at this moment.

As the two probe rafts struggled along their pre-programmed trajectory, heading back towards the station with the derelict vessel section in tow; the view of the station began growing larger and larger the closer they got to it.

The two probe rafts were now approaching the entrance of the docking station at an incredibly slow pace, such a slow place that for a second Gable could have sworn that time itself was standing still to witness the final approach of the once doomed mining vessel and her rescuers’.

Probe raft two began drifting into the docking bay on a horizontal angle, and as a result had scraped along the outer hull which in turn created an escalating screeching noise that seemed to resonate throughout the entire station. The result of the minor collision was like a small earthquake taking place within the station, as the crew grasped onto their surroundings for their lives.

Probe raft two had merely skimmed the outside of the hull, causing a pebble-skipping effect which had forced the raft onto a trajectory heading away from the station ever so slightly. The two probe rafts were now in a slow paced counter-clockwise spin.

Following the minor collision, probe raft two accompanied by probe raft three and the derelict were now somehow miraculously on the opposite side to each other; the whole event resembled an old garden table folding in upon itself.

All four of the tractor beams on raft three had suddenly fired into full power; as if it was somehow discovering some hidden power supply from somewhere located within the heart of it's tormented systems’.

Probe raft three was now somehow taking the lead; as they headed into the station, positioned at a ninety degree angle, facing the direction of the star Warden. Probe raft three was miraculously hauling both probe raft two and the derelict mining vessel behind it, to the port side away from the star.

All three vessels had landed now; their momentum forcing them to drift along the surface of the docking bay, producing a further jaw clenching clash of metal grating metal in a sublime effort to slow down.

It was certainly a good thing that all three vessels were travelling at such a slow place during the final docking procedure, as they did crash land in a sense, but the slow pace of the procedure had resulted in the vessels reaching to a halt, just before they would have collided with the far docking bay wall.

‘This must be what miracles feel like’Gable thought to himself in the immediate aftermath of the landing.

‘Nice job everyone, now let’s get down there and see what we got!’ Gable sounded out encouragingly.

‘This mining technology will advance our own by decades, maybe even centuries but once again it does leave a lot of unanswered questions, right Professor?’ Dares declared.

‘Yeah it does, it is the discovery of the century for sure but we still need to see whether we can relate the damaged forward section of the ancient mining vessel to the re-disappearance of the ‘Ascendance’ cruiser. I think we need to go there for ourselves, what do you guys think? Helena?’ Gable asked.

‘Yeah absolutely, adventures, excavations, new discoveries, I mean treasure, c’mon!’ she chuckled.

Becoming serious once again, Dares continued to speak.

‘Professor, I think that we do not know enough here, we need to work out how the mining ship was destroyed to begin with, and for some reason it seems that researching the derelict won’t be enough.’

‘Why do I get the feeling that someone wants us to find ‘Ascendance’?’ Gable spoke the sudden thought out loud, to himself as much as he did the crew.

Adrian Kern being familiar with the rest of the crew now, and with it comfortable with speaking his thoughts which was something that Gable believed was a very admirable trait, spoke up, following the common, prolonged silence this time.

‘It is as if whoever sent us the signal transmission knew that us, being archaeologists’ and researchers’ of various kinds, we could not resist the temptation to give in to our own curiosity, and damn, I am as curious as hell, I think that we have to go.’

A chorus of agreements followed his speech and Gable smiled in recognition of them.

‘Alright this is the plan, we need to reach the new crash-site soon, as there are already too many questions that need answered, but we cannot all simply leave the station; we will need a crew here to keep us updated on the mining vessel research.’ Gable said.

Once again there was further silence as the crew realised that they could not all go running off to explore the unknown location of the crashed ship, ‘Ascendance’.

They now realised and understood that Gable was counting on them to stay on the station and learn everything they could about the derelict mining vessel.

‘You got it! I trust all of you to keep things running here. I want you to keep monitoring all incoming transmissions, especially now, with more events unfolding, we simply don’t know what is awaiting us around the next corner,’ Gable said, pointing at the depiction of the Warden star system on the nearest screen as he continued.

‘There may very well be a lot more going on in this system than we know about, we need to start with the complete post-analysis of the derelict mining vessel.’ He added.

Gable smiled encouragingly, turning to face Kern.

‘Kern, it was your plan that allowed us to retrieve the derelict and I believe that is only fitting that you continue the work that you began here.’ Gable ordered.

Kern nodded and smiled at the praise.

‘You are in charge of the vessel research project, and the others will be working alongside you. Now, Dares and myself will be heading back to Julos to retrieve ‘Procules’ which we will then take to the signal location' Gable started.

'Firstly though, I need to brief the government on what has happened, as well as hopefully obtaining the approval I need to implement my plan. Let’s get to work guys, the Republic is counting on us, it may even turn out that the crew of ‘Ascendance’ is too, somehow.’ Gable finished saying over his shoulder, as he began to walk towards the communication compartment.

The Cideen Republic deep space government was located ten star systems away from Warden, in Cairnes star system; which like Warden was also located on the frontier of the Republic. Humans had travelled far out into the cosmos from Earth one thousand six hundred and ninety three years ago, colonizing as fast as they discovered new star systems.

The government back on Earth at the time; all of those years ago, had decided that in order for such a colonization effort to be successful, they needed to have local governments in place throughout what was now the Cideen Republic.

As more time had passed, and as the Republic grew with its governing of almost every star system that had once been a part of the mass colonization effort, some star system governments had collapsed, whereas star systems like that of Julos and Cairnes had succeeded in maintaining the peace.

The one thousand two hundred and thirty three star systems which humanity boasted, was indeed a large quantity of colonies to govern; but for years the Cideen Republic and various Earth governments had refused to release any information as to why the colonization effort had ceased at that specific odd number.

It was an odd discrepancy to consider; when a total of one thousand five hundred star systems had originally been surveyed for colonization.

People began to wonder if humanity had simply given up on such a costly venture, which was the most likely scenario.

There were even some citizens, who had gone as far as to argue that humanity had been repelled by an outside influence; no one ever applied the term alien though, as that would have resulted in the mocking of the individual with a possibility of them being institutionalised for their outrageous claims.

It had been precisely four hundred and thirty three years since the initial surveying of star systems and the colonization of a great majority of those which were selected as candidates to be a part of the Cideen Republic.

Throughout that long period of time; people had simply forgotten all about the original colonization plans, and the government had instead focussed upon the development and the terra-forming of the planets and star systems that they already possessed, within the boundaries of the Republic.

In the year 4,587, Earth was still a powerful governmental body with a lot of influence throughout the Republic.

Earth was even responsible for the original decision begin the mass colonization, and determining which star systems were to become members of the Cideen Republic.

The Earth government had chosen to posthumously name the Cideen Republic during the early days; after the president of that same government when the colonization effort had actually begun.

Cairnes and Julosso had later become powerful beacons of governmental power within the Cideen Republic, but fortunately they were all firmly allied.

It was because of this alliance; that Cairnes had been chosen to be the governmental seat of power for the far sector of Republic space which had consisted of one hundred and sixty six star systems including that of Warden, Cairnes and Julosso.

President James Kayden was the current governmental leader of the far sector of the Cideen Republic; someone who had been friends with Gable since they were children living on the planet Julos, which was the primary inhabited planet located in the Julosso star system.

Cairnes was similar to Julosso in terms of their size and wealth but it was ultimately the excellent strategic location of Cairnes on the boundary of the Republic that had allowed for it to become so powerful, and recognized by the government.

The vast distance involved traveling to Julosso or Cairnes from Warden were a constant issue in regards to shipping; That and because Gable could not afford to spend weeks traveling across the edge of the Republic to meet with members of the government.

As a result of this dilemma; he had decided to contact the president directly through the inter-galactic communications network, which had allowed the denizens of the Cideen Republic to enjoy communications wherever they were, even in somewhere like Warden star system; at least to a certain extent.

‘President Kayden, this is Professor Gable on the Odysseus Deep Space station. Sir I have some important news to report following events that have taken place in the last week within the Warden star system’. Gable finished his report, and his friend, the President could do nothing but stare in disbelief for a long time.

All formalities were put aside now.

‘Is this for real Benjamin?’ the President questioned.

‘Yeah it is Jim, I realise what this must sound like, but it is the truth and I strongly believe that we should go and see what is really going on there at the signal location, while the crew of Odysseus work on the mining vessel analysis,’ Gable replied.

The president nodded in appreciation of the reported situation, as he lowered his head and clasped his hands together over the large marble table that Gable could identify through the video conference software.

A moment later President Kayden was focusing back on Gable, a stern expression was appearing across his face.

‘Alright professor you have to go, I agree, this discovery may only be a sign of things to come, and I would like to at least have some of the cards on hand,’ he replied, smiling back at Gable.

The Republic needed to learn a lot more about their secret history and their developed technology, which was suspiciously incomplete to say the least, such as the inter-galactic communications network, and now what was left of the ancient mining vessel.

‘I am on it Mr President, I will be heading back to Julos tomorrow with my research assistant Helena Dares, where I will collect my ship ‘Procules’ and brief the rest of my team on the recent events that have taken place.’ Gable informed.

‘Good to hear it Professor, I also hear that you’re ship is equipped with the latest survey, salvage and excavation gear, which you may very well need out there. From the reports that I have read, I see that Helena Dares is a remarkable student in her field, nice job getting her on your team professor...Alas I digress, I wish you all good luck and my prayers go with you and you’re crew, and that of the Odysseus crew, Will you pass on my best to them as well before you leave Benjamin? Thank you, Kayden out’. The President finished.

Gable briskly headed into the lounge area where the rest of the Odysseus crew now sat in wait.

Firstly he had informed them of the president’s appraisal of their valiant efforts thus far; and he could tell that they needed the extra reassurance in order to let them know from someone else other than himself; someone in the government who could tell them openly that the people of the Republic were depending upon them.

‘How did it go professor?’ Dares interjected before Gable could pass on the president’s message to the others.

Gable began to reply to her, pausing straight away while he waited for everyone else to pay attention.

‘Well guys, the president sends his best, he is impressed with all of you, he also agrees with us, that it is imperative that we find ‘Ascendance’ along with a valid reason for its disappearance, so off we go I guess.’ Gable said, finally relaying the message.

Gable and Dares were both packing their belongings in haste; this would usually imply that they needed to leave immediately. The truth however, was that it was a restless night aboard the station and there was nothing to do but prepare for their journey in the morning.

That night was strange, both Gable and Dares could not sleep.

It was as if the Warden star system did not want them to leave anymore; like they were now an integrated part of the dying star system.

Nightmares were a common factor for any sailor; but when they felt so realistic, and unexplainable, to the point where you could not differentiate between the content of the nightmare, and your own reality. That was in fact, something else entirely; something terrifying.

‘Good morning Helena, you look sprightly this morning’ Gable prodded, despite his own haggard appearance.

‘Yeah, I feel fantastic, best night’s sleep ever I must say!’ she replied mockingly.

‘Seriously Helena, what’s going on, you sleep well?’ Gable asked.

‘Not really professor, I had an awful nightmare but at the end of the day it was only a nightmare,’ she confessed.

‘Well nightmares are nightmares as you say, but they can still hurt, want to talk about it?’ he asked.

‘No its fine, I’m fine it was just...okay I dreamt of a scorched cinder of a planet, the fires were burning across the damn near entire thing, ships were exploding under fire, people I know that it was a dream but it felt so real,’ she cried.

Gable stared at her for a moment beside himself, his worry for her threatened to overwhelm him as he began to speak. Dares now looked even more worried than before.

‘Helena....I...I have had a dream like that once, it is hard to tell whether you are actually awake or still sleeping...then you begin to notice that things are different in the most subtle of ways you know, unfamiliar faces, places you don’t recognize, right?’ he asked.

Literally minutes of silence had passed as Dares continued stared off into the distance as if her mind was located elsewhere outside of the space station, she then slowly turned back to face Gable.

‘Yeah exactly...I didn't really recognize anyone in this dream...but the place...I swear it looked so’s troubling Professor!’ she whispered despairingly, crying for the briefest of moments as she swept away a single welling tear.

‘Well kiddo, I have never been one to believe in premonitions, and I hope to hell that this wasn't one of them...It can’t be, can it? Either way though, we don’t know where it was or what caused it, right? So...that’s some nightmare you had!’ he summarized.

Dares nodded subtly in reply, she appeared to be grateful that Gable had thought of a way to rationalize the content of the dream, chalking it down to being a really bad nightmare.

‘Yeah kiddo, I think that we have to stick to the original plan, we need to find ‘Ascendance’ and then hopefully things will make more sense, let’s go to Julos shall we?’ Gable asked.

‘Yeah let’s go Professor; we aren't going to find any more answers here, that’s for sure.’ She agreed.

The walk to the shuttle dock would have taken five minutes but Gable and Dares had wanted to say farewell to the crew first. At the docking bay, Adrian Kern awaited the two of them.

‘Professor, Dares, good luck out there okay, we have got things in hand here, and we will keep in touch.’ Kern said, shaking Dare’s hand.

‘Same goes for us Kern, we will make contact again when we reach the signal location, may peace be with you friend.’ Gable said for them both, firmly placing his hand upon Kern’s shoulder.

The shuttle exited the station smoothly with a low pitched whirring sound that was a result of the shuttle’s inertial dampeners kicking in; yet the shuttle would not reach its maximum speed for some strange reason.

It was as if the shuttle was now being pulled back into the star Warden with a violent aggression. The turbulence was back again; and this time it was accompanied by the clashing of metal as the shuttle jolted all over the place, as its many components were scraping together unceremoniously.

Gable and Dares were clamoring for the attention of the shuttle pilot; but they couldn't hear a thing, especially with the safety alarms blaring in an unbearable pitch.

One thing for sure was that no human could withstand this kind of torment for long. The internal suffering that was being inflicted upon the crew as a result of the peculiar turbulence was unique, to say the least, as was everything about Warden star system for that matter.

Once the shuttle had reached a safe distance away from the station; the heavy-weighted pull of the gravity well had eased up dramatically upon the vessel, as it sighed with relief.

There was nothing holding the ship back any longer. The Warden star system had finally chosen to let them escape; or so it seemed.

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