It turned out to be early in the ship’s morning when ‘Procules’ left warp space in orbit above a main sequence yellow dwarf star.
There had been no severe turbulence this time around anyway; the crew had been expecting that of course after what had happened the last time they unexpectedly fell out of warp within this sector of space.
This star system was beautiful; it was almost a mirror image of Sol star system where earth was located. Unlike the legendary Sol however, this star system had boasted two large irregular moons above the main planet, plus a gargantuan purple gas giant planet located at the opposite edge of the system.
The stolid gas giant sat isolated in place; with the closest astronomical body being one of the somewhat distant outer asteroid belts.
Some of the asteroids that lay scattered throughout the dense field were uniquely vast in size; from which ’Procules’ surveying equipment had tagged as once having formed yet another lost superior moon some millennia ago.
Following a further analysis of the star system; the survey had identified that there were additional, richer asteroid fields located across the near entire outer fringe of the system as well.
These mining fields were so rich and apparently untouched that Kenny Haynes was almost pleading Gable to allow him to test out his new equipment there; since he could not even hope to do so within Warden star system.
Haynes was oblivious to the fact that such an operation would only be possible after they had actually completed their mission; their mission being the search for the precise location of the broadcasted distress signal.
After an hour of tracking the original location from where the distress signal had supposedly been sent; the crew had at long last narrowed it down to the main planet within the star system. This fact was especially interesting considering that the planetary body in question appeared to be ideal for supporting human life.
They began to follow the signal towards the main planet where the crew had hoped to find some answers.
One could not help but stare out in astonishment at the serene planet below from the observation dome, and after switching ’Procules’ to the trusted autopilot setting; even Hicks could not resist the temptation to make a rare appearance from his lonely office.
‘Office’ in his case was a loosely affiliated term, where it was more accurate to describe it’s apt location; situated fittingly within the engineering compartment located to the far stern section, deep within the bowels of the ship.
Gable stared in awe at the planet with its beautiful blue oceans, fluffy white cotton-clouds and lush green landmass which in turn was edged with jagged white sand stone cliffs protruding into calming seas below.
The only visible difference between this planet and the legendary planet Earth from this vantage point in space was the sheer size of the landmass; of which covered over seventy percent of the planet, unlike Earth which was primarily composed of several vast unconquerable oceans.
‘That planet looks sweet doesn’t it? Reminds me of Earth!’ Gable reflected.
‘I have never been professor but...it does look a lot like the images I saw of it!’ Dares agreed, the others’ also nodding their heads in unison.
They were like a group of restless children on a school trip as they became more and more obsessed with the view outside; so obsessed in fact that Kenny even brought popcorn for the seven hour journey towards their eventual geosynchronous orbit over the planet.
‘Hey guys look what I got!’ Haynes beamed, immediately catching the attention of the crew.
‘Ah nice one Kenny! Where were you hiding that?’ Landon praised laughing along with the others, Haynes clearly had a secret supply stash hidden somewhere on board the ship.
‘I believe that is a no comment Keira...well I guess that we will never find out! Now bring that over here!’ Dares bellowed across the room.
It was so peaceful within this star system. The tranquil silence which enveloped this entire region of space was something to cherish; and when compared to the chaotic phenomenon surrounding their initial journey here, this brief respite was something that they were each immensely grateful for.
‘Now this is what I call downtime boss!’ Hicks said smiling at Gable.
‘Yeah, it sure is! You had better make the most of it buddy! I should go and report in to the president...man that still sounds strange...anyway I’ll check in on the guys back at Warden too! who knows what the hell’s been happening there in our absence right?’ he added hastily before leaving through the hatch on his way back to the bridge.
‘I’m just glad that we got this damned thing working...without communications we would most certainly have gotten lost out here by now. All right then let’s do this’. He thought out loud, before setting up the communication Link with Cairnes star system.
‘This is research, survey and excavation ship ’Procules’ reporting in; request an audience with President Kayden’ Gable pleaded.
‘One moment Sir’ the automated communications officer replied back after a few moments, without any real emotion in it’s dull response.
It would have seemed that Gable and ′Procules’ were high on the deep space governments’ priority list these days after Gable only had to wait a few minutes for the President to answer his call; faster than light communications were bliss during times like this.
‘This is Kayden, hello Benjamin I’m glad to hear from you, and to think that your scheduled check in is only four hours late too; I mean...we knew that you would be hard pressed to keep to the set timeline for the journey and judging from your appearance...I’m guessing that it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows out there?’ President Kayden asked sincerely.
‘No James I’m afraid not; most of the journey was textbook perfection...that is until we were two days out from the signal location and then well...’ Gable took his time to describe the remainder of their journey, of which brought them to this moment.
Gable also moved on to discuss the myriad of beautiful and mysterious sights that had befell them thus far; this knowledge appeared to have somewhat uplifted the president’s mood.
‘I see, well...pass my best on to your team will you; it must have taken a remarkable effort to get out of there in one piece!’ the President appraised before pausing for a moment as he collected his thoughts.
’This does seem too good to be true doesn’t it? The ‘Ascendance’s’ distress signal that is...the signal coming from a planet that just so happens to support human life...do you think that the crew could still be alive down there?’ he almost whispered; as if saying the words too loud would crush any high hopes of their being survivors of the stricken vessel after all this time.
‘Anything’s possible I guess, the ship had to get here somehow right?’ Gable contemplated.
‘Yes, a good point Benjamin, have you contacted Odysseus base back in Warden yet?’ Kayden asked.
‘Not yet James, I wanted to contact you first!’ That brought a pleasant smile to the President’s face.
‘Thank you Benjamin, I appreciate it, anyway the crew aboard Odysseus station have made some intriguing discoveries in regards to the ancient craft that you found, give them a call!’ the President announced, before turning to one of his aides for advice.
‘Kern was it?’ he asked the bewildered aide.
The aide nodded absentmindedly, no doubt grateful that she had discovered that information earlier.
‘Yes Adrian Kern, bright fellow he is. He has some astonishing theories as to the crafts origins!’ Kayden remarked, not divulging too much information, which only left Gable wanting more.
‘I shall talk to you in one week’s time for the next check in okay?’ President Kayden asked, already knowing what Gable’s answer would entail.
Gable bore the look of a proud man following the due praise; considering that Kern was his choice to be placed as the leader of the Odysseus station after all, and for all intensive purposes, it appeared that Gable had indeed made a sound choice.
‘I will call them right now James, thanks again and speak soon friend!’ with that the call then cut off.
The call to the president had taken the better part of an hour; and with around six hours travel time to the planet’s orbit still remaining, Gable had nothing but time to kill. This inspired a thought in him, yet another task to complete before he called Odysseus.
‘So I’m guessing that you are all still in the dome?’ Gable asked over the intercom.
‘Yup’ Dares answered.
‘Well you earned it, do me a favour though...it’s just a hunch but this place is too perfect and...it’s far too quiet considering star systems like this are hard to come by; keep monitoring your data pads for any odd signs, that is to say anything that feels off to you...from signals to power sources or traces of life for that matter, I wanna know...thanks’ Gable addressed.
I guess that it’s time to call Odysseus station then. He thought.
‘This is research, survey and excavation ship ’Procules’ reporting in, Kern is that you? Sorry this line is pretty bad’ Gable said.
’Yes [Static]...me, hello Professor, sorry about this connection; we keep getting strange signal interference which is messing up our commun...[Static] It would make sense if we were inside a white dwarf star system, but...[Static] where comm...would be near enough imposs...not here...like I said strange’ Kern admitted.
’Anyway enough about this place for the [Static]...how goes...journey? You look a little beat up!’ Kern added a minute later, the communications network taking a little longer to process the drawn out conversation.
‘Yeah no kidding we managed to fall out of warp prematurely and land ourselves on the edge of an Ion radiation cloud; we lost all power, communications, surveying systems, and I’m talking everything Adrian! It was due to good old fashioned luck more than anything that we were travelling at a high enough velocity when we reached the phenomenon; as we pretty much skipped across it and drifted back out after a few hours, it was pretty awful!’ Gable visibly sighed at the remembrance of the traumatic flashback while Kern looked sympathetic to his cause.
’Geez Professor, talk about [Static]...near death experience right?’ Kern replied.
‘I know...but we are here now in this mysterious wonder of a star system; its damn near perfect Adrian! Take a look at these readings!’ Gable offered as he uploaded the data to Warden which took several irritating minutes to arrive.
’Nice catch, check out...[Static] main planet; almost like earth isn’t it?’ Kern asked, utterly intrigued now.
‘We were just discussing that same thing, it’s a damned near mirror reflection of it; except for the landmass ratio to water of course, even the asteroid fields are untouched with no visible mining activity! I just can’t wrap my head around it!’ Gable exclaimed.
‘I just can’t shake the feeling that something is off; what do you think?’ Kern replied with a whisper.
’I couldn’t agree more, we will soon discover the root of our unease when we finally track the ‘Ascendance’s’ signal which is coming from the main planet where we are heading now’ Gable agreed.
‘This isn’t just a planet though; it’s a planet that could according to these readings...support life for a long, long time, or rather until the star begins to die, given its shorter life span and all!’ Gable added.
’So as it now stands, there is a minute possibility that the ‘Ascendance’ crew has somehow survived their perilous journey; especially given the fact that the planet that they are believed to be on...is perfectly habitable!′ he continued.
‘I know that the government officials’ expressed publically that no one had been to visit this area of space before, and don’t get me wrong...the evidence proves that they are telling the truth...I just can’t shake that odd sensation...you know?′ Gable pondered.
‘What I would give to be there with you right now!’ Kern expressed with unchecked interest.
‘Anyway...the president mentioned that you had a working theory about the forward section of the mining vessel Adrian?’ Gable asked, changing topic to something much less frustrating.
‘I know exactly what you mean professor, and yes we do, we are discovering so much more about the forward section of the mining vessel, including the premise of advanced equipment and larger hull structures in particular!’ Kern replied eagerly.
‘Now, the strangest part is that this forward section resembles the general design layout of our own, current full purpose mining vessels...even the damned equipment resembles a somewhat improved and upgraded edition of what we have right now...you seeing a pattern professor?’ Kern asked, his summaries abound in intrigue.
‘I sure do, before I left we weren’t even able to discover the damned name of the vessel...or date it for that matter, any luck since?’ Gable asked pointedly.
‘None at all, get this...the ship has no record of construction or commission on file, no crew remains and there was no incident report filed...that’s right, either the government had wanted this discovery kept quiet...or they know just as must about it as we do’ Kern admitted.
‘The plentiful evidence proving the government’s intentions to openly support us with our endeavour would suggest the latter though!’ Kern added, commiserating within his confounded confusion about the wreck data with Gable.
A look of intolerable despair appeared to flood over Kern as another troublesome thought entered his mind.
‘I have just identified something else that you won’t like Professor...by analysing the data that you just sent me; I have proof that the ship’s materials do not originate from anywhere within the Cideen Republic...’ Kern reported with an abruptness that was powerful enough to even throw the stolid Benjamin Gable off balance.
‘Professor if your initial readings are correct...then this particular metallic composite had originated within the star system that you are currently residing in, a star system in which no person has ever visited...until this moment, a little weird don’t you think?’ Kern asked in shock, his trembling right hand covering his mouth as if attempting to halt his ability to report anything else of agonizing worth.
‘What are the odds, that you just end up travelling to the one star system which we now have knowledge of holding that particular raw material from which this Warden star system derelict vessel is made of..it can’t be a coincidence! It must be connected somehow...be wary professor!’ Kern cautioned.
’Will do Adrian, maybe the ‘Ascendance’ crash site can tell us more...who knows, I will keep you updated though!’ Gable replied.
‘Likewise professor, good luck out there!’ Kern finished, ending the communication linkup.
Gable slouched back in his chair following the insightful yet troubling conversation, his thoughts now swirling, plagued with an ancient fear; this being a fear of the unknown.
Son of a...I’d better tell the others’ about this. He thought.
He took his time to stroll back across to the observation dome though; rampant thoughts were now constantly flooding his overactive imagination. They still had five hours or so left before they would land upon solid ground, and they had already learned as much as they could aboard the ship for the moment.
A few minutes later he arrived back there and the crew were still viewing the rapidly expanding image of the primary planet as they continued to steadily approach its orbit.
Gable took a seat and began to bring the crew up to speed from what he had discussed with the President; to what he had learned from Kern at Odyseuss station back in Warden star system.
‘Oh my, this trip is getting hotter by the minute boss!’ Haynes admitted, pumping his stump-like fist in the air recklessly with an aura of sudden excitement coursing through him.
Hicks decided to join in with the celebration just as he had always done; when the implications surrounding their wild discoveries’ appeared to hit them at the same time.
‘We need to mine some ore samples don’t we boss? To test you know?’ Hicks questioned hastily and Gable grinned at him; outwardly marvelling at his overly enlightened mood.
It appeared that Hicks would finally get to play with his new toys after all.
‘Hell yeah! I’m gonna go and check my equipment boss!’ Hicks boastfully exclaimed.
The crew stared after him as he left the compartment with a visible spring in his step.
‘You have really made his day professor! Perhaps even his year!’ Dares added with a chuckle.
A chorus of laughter ensued just as Hicks left the room; and then once more, attention’s began to squarely focus back upon the one of a kind view of the star system.
The final few hours to reach the planet were long, tedious ones this time around, and no new information could be retrieved from the planetary surface whilst they were still up in orbit. The next step would be to position ’Procules’ at a height of about four and a half kilometres over the most fertile continent on planet’s surface.
This would allow them to conduct a full battery of environmental, mineral, pre-excavation and thermographic surveys which would help them to pin point the exact crash location of ‘Ascendance’.
Now firmly locked into the planets orbit; they had began their long awaited descent to find the answers that they hoped were there. The fact that they were not landing on the ground immediately ensured that the process had been relatively swift and they were now positioned at the most efficient co-ordinates in order to receive the fairest survey results.
The planet was even more beautiful when viewing it up close.
A topographical analysis of the planet identified that there were numerous huge rocky mountain peaks that were scattered all over the six huge continents which the main planet had boasted; three of these landmasses were each in turn connected together through narrow rocky land bridges creating an efficient form of network between each of the continents stretching across the planet.
The continent that they were positioned over in the centre had been covered by endless fruitful forests and green pastures as far as the eye could see; extensive environmental surveys had ultimately revealed that the planet as a whole, was truly an ecological paradise.
‘It’s as if something has just created this star system recently; it is untouched in every sense of the word, no traces of wildlife... not yet anyway’ Landon assessed whilst keeping her eyes on her work station.
‘No kidding, too perfect, it’s kind of unsettling!’ Gable agreed.
It stood to reason that a planet this perfect should have either been colonised or have been teeming with all forms of life; just like Earth back in Sol star system.
The crew would be there for a while it seemed; yet there would be plenty for the crew to do, including mining operations of which Hicks had been suited up ready to commence for over an hour now.
The rest of the crew were utilizing their time wisely of course; running surveys of the planet, whilst watching in hope for a chance to set foot outside for the first time in nearly three weeks.
The station on Julos didn’t exactly count as them setting foot outside; since they had not actually left the station itself during the short period of time that they spent there.
When analysed in this light; it had actually been more like several months since they had walked on soil or smelt the wonderful aroma of the countryside; and that was exactly what this planet reminded them of.
The wind scraped the through the towering, overgrown grass of the landscape; and the heavy lances of rain had been beating down on to the waterlogged meadows below with a wrathful fury for many hours now.
The weather outside had never really improved much throughout the past few hours that they had been positioned there; although the fertile landscape of this particular area of the planet was certainly something to admire nonetheless.
‘We need to think of a name for this planet, any suggestions?’ Gable asked.
Haynes had been the first one to take the opportunity to offer up some incredulous examples.
’Oh how about something cool like Paine or Helga boss?’ he asked.
‘Erm...well I like them, I do, but...this planet is too lovely for such a negative name, I think’ Gable replied, trying not to openly discourage anymore suggestions.
Nobody else offered any suggestions; allowing Haynes to think of more, it had not taken the man long to provide them, he spoke up again when he realised that no one else had any ideas.
‘How about Elona boss? It means light, as in this planet is here to light the way for us, darkness be damned!’ Haynes beamed.
Nobody expected him to offer such a fitting suggestion. Even Dares and Landon appeared to have approved of the unexpected idea.
‘That’s really good Kenny! How’d you come up with that?’ Gable asked, his general curiosity showing now.
‘Ah, it was my mother’s name boss’ Haynes replied. His use of the term ‘was’ and his sudden shift in mood, made Gable think that the man was in pain for some eluding reason.
He can tell me if and when he is ready...if he wants to. Time to change the subject. Gable thought.
‘I love it, fits well doesn’t it? Elona it is then!’ Gable confirmed.
‘How about the name of the star?’ Gable asked shortly after, Haynes was sitting this one out though.
‘We could call it Astros, I haven’t seen so many asteroid fields in one system that are so untouched!’ Hicks suggested with a cheek stretching grin.
‘Good one, all right let it be known that we are currently in Astros star system over the planet Elona!’ Gable added, pressing a few keys at his station in order to enter the designations into his log.
‘This is Professor Benjamin Gable reporting, as the star system discoverer’s we have designated this star Astros and the primary planet Elona, Gable out!’ he recorded.
With that task being completed everyone bore a resounding look of pride; they were each enthralled to have had a key input in regards to the history of Astros star system.
It was now approaching lunch time aboard ‘Procules’.
Hicks decided to leave his equipment for a while and moved to join Landon and Kenny in the observation dome. This left Gable and Dares to monitor the ship’s systems, whilst they furiously continued to search for the ‘Ascendance’ shipwreck and her crew.
‘Helena what happened to all of the coffee?’ Gable asked, dramatically shaking his mug.
‘Well boss...’ she began to reply in an almost sheepish tone of voice, when she was cut off by a promising sight.
‘Hold that thought kiddo...computer magnify on landscape grid X-38! Well, well, well, what do we have here ladies and gentlemen? Would you take a look at that!’ he declared.
’Do you see the ‘crop-markings’ down there boss?’ Dares almost whispered in amazement at the now visible archaeological features on the planet’s surface.
‘You bet I see it kiddo, this is beyond our wildest dreams!’ Gable added.
‘Wait one...what is that next to it...I’m getting faint energy readings within the area where the distress signal was believed to have originated; yeah something is down there within that large overgrowth, who knows...the canopy of the small forest surrounding the area could be masking its full signature from our scanners!’ Dares said, cutting him off this time, but it was worth it.
Gable hastily called the crew up to the bridge of ′Procules’, the urgency within his voice had resulted in them sprinting up to see what was happening.
‘Alright, what we have here is a genuine mystery in all honesty; crop marks would suggest ancient activity, but then we ave some faint energy reading within the large overgrowth of trees and foliage that may prove to be something of considerable worth to our cause, now who would like to go down there first?’ he asked mockingly as they each raised their hands on queue.
All fun aside now, Gable pointed sharply towards the display with a trace of enthusiasm in his movements.
‘Okay, so firstly we discover a distress signal message being relayed to Warden star system from within this region of space which was intriguing enough.’
Gable continued on with his briefing at a decisive pace after allowing them to absorb the information.
‘Secondly we have now discovered the possible originating location of this mysterious signal...yet so far it seems that there is no one home.’ he added in a baffled tone of voice.
The room fell silent as the crew processed his summarization of the current events; unable to hold his excitement for much longer Gable powered forward with his briefing. This was a similar form of briefing to what he had often loved to deliver all of those years ago, back at the Archaeological Institution Headquarters on the planet Julos. This briefing was far more exciting though he thought.
‘This then takes me onto my final point, which is that although there is indeed no one home; archaeological survey scanner alpha has just discovered a series of crop-marks that clearly mark the foundations for a very large ancient settlement or super-structure,’ he said.
‘Let’s get our asses down there guys!’ Gable remarked with an over-exaggerated trace of enthusiasm.
Naturally Hicks had been the first to jump to his feet as he ran back down to the engineering deck in all manner of haste; everyone else had secured themselves into their chairs on the bridge in preparation for their much anticipated landing.
′Procules’ glided through the air as if it was a ship sailing on a planetary ocean; and with a roar of the ships thrusters as it approached the landmass, the ship skipped across the cotton-shaped clouds; creating a picturesque ripple effect throughout the daunting blue sky.
The ship reduced it’s speed with great ease and then with a nimble jaunt as it drew closer to its destination; the vessel landed gracefully like a leaf kissing water as it fell harmlessly upon the naturally created stone decking. There location being off to the west of where they had recently discovered the signal’s origin, along with the nearby crop-mark features that the area had boasted.
The crew were now slowly exiting ′Procules’ in an effort to adjust to their transition to the planetary atmosphere and surface after being stuck aboard a space ship for a prolonged period of time.
The crew would not begin any excavations on the site just yet; there would be more surveying and investigating to do first.
‘Hey Kenny, you and Hicks bring out two of the ground probing radar drones will you? We can get them started over the crop marks, looking for anything buried beneath the surface, while we head for the signal!’ Gable ordered, while they both nodded and moved to complete the task.
‘Sure boss!’ they replied whilst heading back to set up the equipment. Gable now looked directly at Landon and Dares to see what they were doing.
‘Keira, we are going to need a portable global positioning system!’ he said, knowing that Dares being the surveying whiz kid that she was, would most likely have already packed it up ready.
She had done exactly that.
It was once the case that any GPS system would have required an orbiting satellite in order for it to function, but a portable standalone version had been invented about two hundred years after the first edition; this was thousands of years ago, and was designed in an effort to assist with the colonization effort.
‘Helena, bring a med kit and some salvage equipment okay we are heading out to look for the crash site’ Gable asked.
‘I’m on it Professor!’ she immediately replied.
About twenty five minutes later they were fully prepared for anything that they may discover ahead.
‘Okay usually I would suggest that we hike the distance; but we don’t know this terrain well and the faint signal location appears to be at least six kilometres to the North West of here...we are taking ’Betty’!’ Gable announced, inspiring further smiling and cheers from the crew.
They would definitely not wish to hike for two solid hours and therefore they would be spared that torment; they would get to ride in Mickey’s prototype all purpose buggy, the extraordinary vehicle ′Betty’.
Betty had been the name of Mickey’s late grandmother; someone who he had idolised until her passing over a year ago when he had invented the vehicle in her memory.
′Betty’ was equipped for any situation; be it off road, shallow water, sand, swamp or flat country, she could take them anywhere that they needed to go, which was a welcome virtue whilst being on an unknown world, regardless of how beautiful it had appeared to be from first glance.
‘Alright guys, lets load her up we have some deep forest exploring to do!’ Gable announced with a clear wink as he hauled his own supplies into the trunk of the buggy, including his lucky survival knife which he placed safely away just in case, he told himself.
All loaded up now, they set off, as ′Betty’s’ solar powered engine roared to life; one which had been primed back on Julos and since they would be using her outside, her power supply would recharge itself as they drove her. This was an invaluable asset to be sure.
Starting off slowly in hesitance to begin with while she got her bearings of the terrain; ’Betty’ started to increase her travelling speed just as Mickey Hicks her creator had gently put his foot down on the accelerator as they progressed from crawling through the wild ancient forest to almost dodging and weaving through the dense rows of trees and untamed foliage that gave the surrounding forest its powerful character.
‘Ain’t she a beauty boss?’ Hicks asked as he patted the steering column, grinning wildly.
‘Oh yeah she is! We love ’Betty’!’ Gable replied.
It had always been customary for people to treat any machinery well; it was truly more of an instinct or belief in the supernatural really.
Where such a belief would include ships or any other vehicles’ only protecting the driver; if the driver cared for them in turn. This was a similar belief which was held by the crew of ‘Procules’, of whom believed that ‘Betty’ was also a part of the proverbial family.
Regardless of the bumpy journey through boggy marshes, over fallen tree stumps and jagged rocky paths; ‘Betty’ would get them where they wanted to go in one piece.
Through the crews’ eyes, if ’Procules’ had been their mother; taking care of them as they journeyed across the stars, then Betty would be a form of sibling as she carried them across the land.
One hour later.
‘Are we there yet?’ Dares asked with a child like smirk.
‘I guess someone had to say it didn’t they?’ Gable laughed.
‘Another hour or so, signal is still faint’ he replied.
They weren’t going so fast as to miss out on the beautiful scenic views of the landscape; you could hear the trickling water of nearby streams and waterfalls, the brushing of trees combined with the swirling sounds of the wind tumbling countless dried up autumn leaves around the forest.
They could especially hear the impact that ‘Betty’ was having upon the fresh-crisp landscape as her hydraulic suspension system shifted frantically after she drove over rocks or other jagged objects.
Even the scent of the forest had been wondrous with the aroma of acorn-like trees, flowers and grass adding to the air; it was a very homely feeling yet something was definitely amiss.
‘What’s wrong boss?’ Haynes asked as soon as he noticed Gable’s unmistakable frown.
Gable looked back,, more than a little confused.
‘This place is great but there is something missing!’ everyone looked at him this time, even Hicks who was supposed to be driving looked for a second.
‘Something...professor?’ Dares asked for them all.
‘Yeah...it’s just that everything seems to be in place... it’s just so quiet though, don’t you think?’ Gable asked, clearly trying to put his finger on what was missing.
‘Ah yes, I see what you mean!’ Dares agreed.
Everyone started looking around now as if they were expecting something bad to happen, when Gable slapped his forehead as a thought struck him like a bolt of lightning.
‘There’s no damn wildlife, not even bugs, what is a forest without animals or little bugs biting you right?’ he asked, gasping at the absurdity of the situation.
‘What the hell is this? They can’t be dead or we would have seen animal carcasses right?’ Landon questioned.
Silence erupted now as they each attempted to comprehend the situation.
Instead they were all becoming as baffled and frustrated as Gable appeared to be, coming up with nothing.
Hicks was the first to speak this time.
‘It’s very strange boss, we have discovered that when the conditions are right on a planet life can grow there; like the flora here right? Trees, flowers and various forms of fungi have been able to grow so why not any form of fauna like animals of any kind, a theoretical approach to this situation would be that the planet has developed quite well over millennia yet still not enough to be able to support all forms of life, then again...we are here and we are surviving aren’t we?’ he summarized.
‘Good point Mickey, this is wrong, well we can look into it after we find the crash site!’ Gable declared.
They had been travelling for one hour and twenty three minutes now, when something caught Dares’ eye.
‘Wow slow down Hicks will you, I see something shiny!’ Dares yelled, sticking her tongue out at the side of her mouth, which was something that Gable had discovered she did when she was either in deep concentration or very excited, just as she was right now.
Hicks pulled the buggy over to the side of the make-shift wild road just as Dares jumped out of the moving vehicle with all manner of haste as she approached the half sunken feature.
‘Oh crap! I can’t believe it!’ she yelled as more of a reaction, than it was in the discussion with the crew.
‘What is it Helena?’ Gable shouted back just as intrigued at her reaction as any of the crew members were right now.
‘You better come and see this Professor’ she replied.
They were all running towards her as she stood over the metallic feature as it lay gleaming under the illuminating raise of the sun; they each slid to an abrupt halt, as their eyes caught sight of a severely ′out of place’ feature.
‘Is that...?’ Haynes began to ask in shock.
Gable pointed to the debris as spoke almost gently in reply.
‘Yeah it is...based on the shape and colour of the large feature...I’d say it’s a fragment of hull panelling from a vessel, possibly from the Cideen Republic.’ he said.
’I still couldn’t tell you what class of vessel it’s from yet; it could be from ‘Ascendance’...or not, we will have to see!’ Gable added, looking around at the crew’s faces as he did so.
They all began to realise that the ‘Ascendance’ crash site may actually be there after all.
’You’re right Benj, it is part of a vessel and as far as we can tell there have been no other distress signals coming from this star system; apart from ‘Ascendance’s’ so it could be her!’ Landon smiled, clearly getting her hopes up now.
‘There is one thing that I am especially worried about though; that is if we are discovering debris this far out from the signal location, then it may have been one very nasty collision!’ Landon continued to say.
Gable nodded then as the reality of the situation flooded over him.
‘Yeah I guess we better keep looking, place a beacon here will you Helena? We don’t want to lose any archaeology on our first day!’ he added.
They started to head back to the buggy and continue forward.
As they began to slowly encroach upon the actual signal location; they began to identify more and more vessel fragments which they recorded in sequence, in an effort to discover how the ship had crashed and why it had happened.
‘Oh my, oh my...there she is, she must have came in with some force, from the looks of this crater there would have been little to no effort with the controlling of the vessel during her collision course, yeah she hit the ground dead on’ Hicks announced.
Gable nodded silently in agreement, realising just as the crew did that this was also the grave for that ship’s crew.
They had to proceed very carefully now, they would not want to disturb what was likely to be a mass grave.
‘No control could mean that no one is home, hmm yeah they could have abandoned the ship elsewhere or they could all be dead, let’s go take a look okay?’ Gable asked.
The crew appeared to be more nervous now than ever before, perhaps it was due to them trespassing over what could well have been a mass grave; after all the crash site and the surrounding area had proven to be far too quiet thus far. The lingering eerie atmosphere brought forth a sick feeling; similar to one that you would get if you were being watched by an unseen force.
After hours of climbing over the large debris field in order to reach the remaining severely damaged, yet somewhat strangely separated sections of the vessel. It appeared that there were no bodies visible so far, which had been somewhat of a comfort knowing that the crew could yet live. Although the lack of human remains, or rather any organic remains at the crash site had only contributed to the surreal atmosphere of the planet.
‘What’s this?’ Gable questioned in shock as he rushed over to a stacked jumble of charred metal that was partially submerged into the ground.
The others hastened to join him in the discovery, and just as Dares took her first glance under the wreckage she gasped in horror.
‘It’s a...It’s a’ she tried to get out.
‘An arm’ Gable confirmed with a sigh as he began to carefully remove the surrounding wreckage from the area.
‘Damn...we will have to run some DNA testing in order to confirm who or what they were, but whatever happened to them...it must have hurt like hell!’ Landon observed rubbing the back of her forehead.
‘Yeah no kidding...poor sailor’ Gable agreed.
Haynes finally joined the conversation again, he was not very good with dead bodies, or in this case disjointed body parts.
‘Just a thought here guys...but this arm looks like it was only just placed here! There isn’t even any blood splatter on the surrounding metal for crying out loud!’ Haynes blurted.
‘Seriously, if that isn’t odd enough for you...take a look at that damned ship again! From all appearances it must have simply fell out of a low orbit and ran headlong into the ground...no vector change...nothing!’ Haynes added sounding even more confused than he had been before.
‘I see your point there Kenny! It’s not possible for the ship to simply fall to the ground without any inertia to begin with...if there was no one on board to control the ship during it’s ballistic descent it would partially explain the debris...but to reach that situation in the first place, and at this irregular angle...I don’t know guys’ this is as frustrating as the Warden star system...again’ Hicks commented to the group.
‘Alright then, keep searching the wreckage for clues, human remains...basically anything that can shed some light on these wonderful turn of events okay?’ Gable ordered, the sarcasm echoing in his voice. Yet he had to keep the crew focused on their work despite any concerns regarding the fate of the ‘Ascendance’ crew.
‘Boss we have found the ship’s black box, this should tell us something!,’ Hicks yelled optimistically across the crash site where Gable was also searching desperately through debris himself.
Turning immediately at the announcement he ran over to see Hicks, while the other crew members continued with the search. After connecting the black box device of the crashed ship to their portable data reader; Gable and Hicks were finally able to access the ship’s treasure trove of recorded data.
‘Wow, this thing has three months worth of data stored here!’ Gable yelled, elation in his face at how much had actually survived the crash.
Gable looked over to Hicks as he too began to realise the dilemma that they were now faced with.
‘Yeah Mickey I know...We can’t afford to look through the entire three months worth of data that’s in there...just focus on the data entries for the last day, that should narrow it down a bit!’ Gable ordered.
Hicks nodded in recognition of the gruelling task ahead. He would be listening to the final hours of the ‘Ascendance’ crew after all; something that no one should be forced to endure. Yet they were desperate.
Approximately one everlasting hour had past.
‘Okay boss...I have isolated the entries for the last day...ah there is the distress call that was sent out, the record shows that the distress call was...definitely sent out again recently, this still could have been an accident though!’ Hicks said, not believing his own answer.
Gable could tell immediately that Hicks did not believe his own words, they were both considering the possibility to be sure; yet was no plausible explanation as to why a malfunctioning system selectively sent out a distress signal, as opposed to any other message from the ships logs.
There were even the freshly created scorch marks that were left behind by the recent impact of the ship hitting the planet surface to back up the strange events.
A further two hours later a visibly shaken up Helena Dares called out to the crew; they each darted toward her with a great sense of urgency about them.
‘What’s going on Helena? Is it the surveys?’ Gable questioned, curiosity once again consuming him.
‘That’s right Professor, the surveys’ of the ‘Ascendance’ wreckage have been completed’ Dares confirmed.
They each awaited the all too likely shocking news with barely veiled dread.
‘This surveying technology is very precise right Mickey?’ Dares asked in an attempt to verify her sources before proceeding any further with her unbelievable report.
Professor Benjamin Gable had taught her well, he would always say to her ’If you wanted to put an argument forward, you needed to have evidence to back up your assertations!’
Hicks immediately sprang to the defence of his technology; naturally, it was something that Dares counted upon him to do before she continued to give her report.
‘Of course I designed them myself you know!’ he squealed.
Dares smiled in return as she had known full well of that fact already. The team were recording the survey after all; and just as an archaeologist would have done within any other excavation, there could be no mistakes.
‘Well this here shows that the charred metal hull of the vessel, along with the majority of the damage that we can see, have been successfully dated back to the original incident date around eighty five years ago...and it gets more interesting still.’
‘This specific damage in question would have most certainly caused the ship to cease all functionality...you know what this means right?’ Dares asked, looking terrified before proceeding with her translation of the wreckage data.
‘It would have been impossible for this ship to arrive here by itself...let alone if somebody was on board and physically attempting to control it, not with this kind of damage, no known repair facility could fix this...not in a million years!’ she assessed.
Dares pointed to the data, pressing her heavy fingers on the tempered glass screen of the reader to emphasise her argument.
The room fell silent.
‘There is nothing to support this Helena...this ship should have either remained dormant, dead and stuck in place while the unchanging composition of Warden star system preserved it or...a more likely scenario would have the vessel crash into something within that star system...not here in Astros...c’mon in what universe does this make any sense?’ Haynes added to break the silence.
The frightening discovery had forced the crew to take a short break while they figured out the situation; they sat, casually around an old fallen tree, brooding over the myriad of possible scenarios which could have led up to that moment. This went on for a good half an hour, while they attempted to think of some answers.
Several precious minutes had passed with no further insights.
‘Temporal anomalies!’ Hicks blurted out.
Gable just looked at him in askance of his wild suggestion.
‘What?’ Hicks replied, generally curious why Gable was looking at him in such a way.
‘I said what I said...if you can think of anything else...by all means do share!’ Hicks asked, defending himself.
The crew had nothing of course, and so they had chosen to entertain the notion for but a moment.
‘Alright Mickey...temporal anomalies you say...what made you think of them? I mean we haven’t detected any have we?’ Gable asked in a remarkably patient tone.
’Well we have not detected any here at this moment boss! But let’s really think about this for a second okay? You know an unstable wormhole could have easily transported the ship ‘in place’, from where it lay in Warden, into a decaying orbit around this planet... and then crash, there you have it!’ Hicks waved to the sky dramatically, as if pretending that they would be able to see the events playing back before them.
The crew were no doubt beginning to question Hick’s sanity right about now, yet it was the only absurd explanation that had made any sense, at least to a certain extent.
‘That is quite a leap Mickey...is there any evidence for this type of anomaly appearing over the planet? That is...besides this crashed ship here of course!’ Gable asked, looking at him in hope that he would provide some such evidence for his assertions, or at least come to a different conclusion instead.
‘Well boss not really...to tell you the truth, I’m just thinking of an ancient article that I read from around two thousand years ago, it mentions the whole Illuna-Magellanic galactic collision...along with the probable, yet still unknown effects that the collision could have caused or could still be causing within star systems throughout the lower arm of the galaxy’ Hicks pondered.
‘Understand that I only thought of this because humanity had not previously entered into this sector of space before now, and therefore we would not know of any potential anomalies or adverse affects that were present... It fits doesn’t it boss?’ Hicks asked, hoping that this small piece of information could account for what had happened to the ship.
Gable gazed around at the others just as the implications of the newly received information finally began to sink in.
‘It sure does fit...I had never before considered that theory...after all, why would any of us consider it after so long? It’s certainly something to think about...nice work Mickey!’ Gable agreed.
‘It is...at least now we have somewhere to look...it would seem that the government had sealed a lot of important information away, intentionally or not those many thousands of years ago!’ Landon remarked.
‘It would seem that the government had acted out of fear back then, in a sense they did their jobs in terms of thwarting the public outcry and panic that would have accompanied them learning of that frightening truth.’
‘The government should have also known that it would only work for a short period of time though...now look at this mess! they shouldn’t have ignored the celestial event entirely!’ Landon summarised, shaking her head.
It was Hayne’s turn to speak up this time.
’I think that you’re right Keira, Mickey, it all fits doesn’t it? So let’s say that this is the case...the crew of the ‘Ascendance’ should have still been onboard the ship when it hit the ground, at the very least there should be some human remains here!’ he said, flapping his arms out in frustration.
‘I think I see where you are going with this Kenny, the only conclusion that we can draw from this, is that the crew had abandoned their ship back in Warden star system!’ Gable added.
‘Oh no...those poor bastards...guys they might still be drifting out there in space...I just wish that there was some way to navigate the...what the hell was that?’ Gable almost screamed as he was interrupted by a huge surface tremor toward the south of their current location.
‘Let’s go! Record everything you can too, bring some samples back with us, and don’t forget the black box recorder...and bring those human remains that we discovered too!’ Gable ordered, only Haynes interrupted him this time before he could finish.
‘Well I wouldn’t call an arm human remains...not exactly boss, more like a mystery but your right it does belong to one poor individual, we’ll be careful with it!’ Haynes promised.
Gable smiled back, in appreciation of the gesture.
’Thanks Kenny, let’s be quick guys we need to check out that tremor back onboard ‘Procules’, her systems will have been monitoring the planet’s surface since we arrived here, and we need to call this in too!′
‘There’s no telling what the government may want to do next, maybe send more teams out here to help us!’ he said sarcastically.
‘I would hold off on that call for a minute boss...at least until we see what was with that huge tremor back there, just a thought...after all we don’t even know what could be happening on the rest of the planet’s surface yet!’ Hicks suggested.
‘Right, good call Mickey, let’s get everything back to the ship first then!’ Gable replied, nodding his head sharply.
It had taken three and a half hours to haul all of their equipment, ship fragments along with the black box and the out of context human remains back to the ship.
The crew were exhausted but they had no choice but to continue with their work; once back on the bridge of the ‘Procules’ they began to analyse all of the ship’s surveying systems covering the time period when the tremor had occurred, half an hour later they still had found nothing.
‘This is taking too long boss... that was a relatively short tremor wasn’t it? Nothing like an earthquake, it was more like...’ Hicks began.
‘More like what Mickey?’ Gable questioned no doubt perplexed at his sudden silence.
Hicks stared back at Gable now in absolute worry.
‘More like an impact boss, there were no signals though, it must have been something else!’ Hicks replied.
‘What else could it be though? Keep looking okay...this could be bad!’ Gable admitted, almost whispering, his fears creeping up to the surface again.
’You mean worse than what happened to the ‘Ascendance’ Professor?’ Dares snorted. She did have a good point there.
‘Right, I walked straight into that one didn’t I? I should have said that this could be just as bad! We hardly know anything about what is going on!’ Gable confessed, letting out his frustration.
‘That is so Benjamin but...we do know more than we did before though, which is something at least?’ Keira asked, immediately realising that her words were successfully easing the high level of anxiety that had been eating away at Gable since they discovered the wreck.
He whispered a silent thank you to her in return.
’I got something boss! And it’s not actually too far away from this location, let’s say that this particular anomaly, the one that brought the ‘Ascendance’ wreck to this star system was still there...then it stands to reason that anything else being brought to this location would end up crashing relatively close by right?’ Dares asked, her voice almost screeching across the bridge.
‘Right lets go, bring basic exploration and surveying equipment this time, okay guys?’ Gable ordered eagerly.
‘Got it boss!’ Haynes answered.
With less to carry with them this time around it had taken but a small fraction of the amount of time that they had required to be prepared before.
Mere minutes had passed after being off of the ship; when a huge hammering crash of what resembled thunder erupted from the surrounding wilderness before echoing all around them.
The rough-hewn surface shook more violently this time.
Even ‘Procules’ had shifted slightly in her position; Haynes turned first towards the originating location of the tremendous clatter.
They were to witness the actual event this time around it would appear.
Suddenly there was a brief opening in the sky almost too quick to comprehend; accompanied by further ambient sounds of which did not belong within their own reality, and along with bursting flashes of white light across the once gentle skyline.
The event was so surreal that if one did not know any better; they would have confused the light with an instantly dissipating sunset.
‘What the hell was...oh sweet Aurelia...mother in...Is that the...’ Hicks began.
‘That can’t be it!’ Dares replied immediately, her eyes ablaze with terrifying uncertainty.
Are my eyes playing tricks? Have I truly lost my mind? Well we are all seeing this, this must be real! She thought to herself.
There it was; the deafening crash of yet another somewhat closer and very large object. This was however, one object that could easily be recognised from a distance, and this particular object in question was most certainly not supposed to be there, falling uncontrollably towards the planet’s surface.
It was the old ′Rifter Bridge’.
Somehow, in an instant, the ancient bridge appeared to be present before them, simply flashing into existence through a fractured break in the sky.
As if the appearance of the huge, yet time-worn bridge was not enough of an estranged phenomenon, the fact that this bridge had been completely deconstructed six hundred and twenty three years ago due to its lack of durability and old age was even more unsettling.
The bridge before them had been replaced with an upgraded rotating version in Nepos a few years later; this bridge should not exist anymore.
The impossible occurrence pretty much caused the crew to stop breathing for a minute; freezing in place as they each stood still, gazing openly at the incomprehensible sight that they were somehow witnessing.
With their eyes now open wide in utter shock, and their jaws nearly touching the floor, they steadily attempted to regain some semblance of composure.
Following the initial ballistic collision of the bridge onto the planet’s surface; the crew could hear the Gothic style arches buckling under the sheer pressure of the impact, just as the stone support columns crumbled simultaneously.
The once idyllic bridge collapsed onto its side with a whining growl as the gravitational pull of the planet’s surface forced it to topple over into a final crash of boisterous rage.
Dust and debris were then immediately hurled outward in a wave of torment following the collision in all directions.
‘Quick, get to that ridge over there!’ Gable yelled.
His sharp order literally shaking them away from the terrifying sight that lay before them, a swift acknowledgment demonstrated more than words that they weren’t ready to question him at all, especially considering what had just happened.
They began to race forward; sprinting toward the ridge of grass.
Flat naturally decked paving rolled on to meet the wild and dense covering of trees that lay curiously undisturbed nearby.
A couple of minutes later, the debris wave had passed, leaving a thick covering of dust in it’s wake. There was a covering so thick that they could barely see an inch in front of them.
During a moment of curiosity and fear immediately following what had happened just as the dust began to settle a little; they ran towards the collision area with all haste, in an effort to identify whether or not they had indeed lost their sanity.
‘Would you take a look at that?’ Gable observed in awe as the crew slid to a halt behind him.
The once intact bridge that they had thought they saw plummeting to the surface a short time ago was now a heap of scattered debris; a new permanent, yet out of place edition to the landscape of the planet.
‘We haven’t lost it then?’ Haynes questioned with a ghastly laugh as he looked to the other crew members.
Witnessing something like this happen first hand, certainly raised the question of whether or not they would have preferred to be insane, as opposed to having to deal with the frightening implications of their current situation.
‘Well I can only speak for myself and the other guys Kenny, you on the other hand well...that there is another story!’ Dares snorted in sarcasm as she gave Haynes a deliberate yet gentle punch in the arm.
’This is the old ‘Rifter Bridge’ from over six hundred years ago...this is way above my pay grade!’ Landon confirmed looking around at the crew for any other ideas.
One thing was certain; they would most certainly require their team working skills to solve this mystery. How did the temporal anomalies do this? Why? And was it happening elsewhere within the Cideen Republic without anyone knowing about it?.
Ten minutes passed as they considered and debated over the facts of what was happening.
‘Your right Keira! I guess in a very strange way I am glad that we have seen this...that’s right, you heard me correctly...it does answer a few questions for us, although on the down side I also have more additional questions to add to the older ones now!’ Gable replied, once again expressing his frustration.
’No kidding Benjamin, so let’s lay this out then, the ‘Acendance’ ship was lost in Warden over eighty five years ago...then recently crashed here on this planet, sending out another automatic distress signal, of which we had then received again and had since arrived to locate!’ Landon waited a moment before continuing.
’Now we have temporal anomalies appearing everywhere throughout this star system, including the two that caused the ‘Ascendance’ and the ’Rifter Bridge’ to crash into the surface.
The bridge and the ‘Ascendance’ are evidence enough that time is being messed up somehow; especially giving that objects from the past are reappearing out of context, that is in time and space...and not just from one period of time...‘Rifter Bridge’ is hundreds of years old, whereas the ‘Ascendance’ was only reported lost in Warden, eighty five years ago!’ Landon cried.
‘I wonder...that mining vessel in Warden or that damned creature...anyway I agree, it appears that these occurrences may be escalating.’
‘So far it has been isolated to this star system at least as far as we know, but I think that we need to consider that the ever consuming gas clouds of Warden star system could very well be camouflaging...anything, that is anything additional to what we have already witnessed in this star system.’
‘Hell..it may be even worse there than it is here...regardless, it’s not safe here! We need to get back to the ship before a damned building squashes her!’ Hicks concluded, terrified of the idea of ‘Procules’ being destroyed.
‘Good point Mickey, alright I don’t see any point in exploring the surface anymore, we know what is happening here to a certain extent, we have crop marks in certain places where ancient structures appear to have been more levelled as opposed to being simply destroyed, let alone falling objects out of time! This place is becoming nothing short of being a freak show!’ Gable pointed out into the distance, with a short laugh, shaking his head from side to side at the absurdity of his own statement.
‘Let’s get a move on! If we have time I still want to take some ore samples back to Julos...you got that covered Mickey?’ Gable asked with a grin, already knowing what his answer would be.
‘Please boss, I have had my gear ready since we left ’Procules’ the first time around, don’t you worry, we will get you some precious metals out there I promise!’ Hicks pledged once again with a dramatic fist pump in the air, the idea of him getting to use his new technology was now becoming a certainty.
It had only taken around fifty minutes for the crew to board ‘Procules’ once more since they had not travelled too far away from the ship this time.
Hicks was in the engine room priming the thrusters; while everyone else sat on the bridge after successfully storing all of their equipment downstairs in the ship’s cargo hold.
‘We are good for lift off boss...now take me to them rocks will you!’ Hicks remarked over the communications system.
‘Sure thing Mickey, you have a candidate for us yet?’ Dares asked, surveying was her speciality after all.
‘When we reach outer orbit, this super rock of mine is located ninety degrees to port, towards the outer fringes of the system, I have uploaded the exact co-ordinates to the bridge data bank, you have it?’ Hicks asked.
‘I got it Mickey, thanks.’ Dares replied.
‘Hey Helena, my scans are showing that this particular unknown element that we are going for is rare in this star system, and is apparently in its native state like...say that of Gold or Platinum, only it would be far more valuable in terms of both money and its geological worth!’
‘What I mean to say is, this is yet another new discovery...we haven’t found anything like it throughout the entire Republic!’
‘Oh I almost forgot there are some traces of...Cobalt too; it’s very exciting!’ Hicks beamed, he wasn’t only getting to mine ore, he was discovering an entirely new type of mineral.
‘Heh, nice one! I can tell how excited you are Mickey! Hold on to something will you, we are on our way now’ Dares replied as she programmed the surveying equipment to lock on to the asteroid that they needed.
This step would ensure that they were ready to roll just as soon as they arrived at the target location within two hours and twelve minutes.
‘So Mickey, what’s the market value on one of these rocks?’ Dares mocked knowing already, just how defensive Hicks would become over the sensitive subject of ‘his’ precious ore.
‘You wouldn’t!’ he cried.
‘But since you asked, it would actually be priceless really, there is no known value estimate for one of the elements...and as for the Cobalt, well one metric ton for that alone is easily worth six thousand credits at the moment!’ Hicks added.
‘Seriously? I was just kidding...but that does get you thinking doesn’t it? if one metric ton of raw Cobalt is worth that much, what would that and this precious metal be worth when combined?’ Dares asked, also excited about the ore.
Staring out into open space now; her thoughts were running wild.
Dares was clearly as ecstatic as Hicks was; she was now just realising that there may be some additional profit involved in the mission that they were embarked upon.
There was nothing wrong with a little freelance mining when no laws were being broken after all.
Gable looked over at Dares with a perplexed frown.
‘I have no objections...that’s if we get a chance to...but considering what is happening out there...it may prove to be a difficult task!’
‘Oh...okay, but remember the first samples are for research okay? Mickey you get that too? Don’t go hoarding this stuff in your quarters again okay!’ Gable ordered, sounding like he was joking, yet Hicks did try to do that on occasion, he loved the stuff.
‘I hear you loud and clear boss! You got it, no hiding the ore again!’ Hicks called out over the communications system which brought hysterical laughter across the bridge.
The whole crew were surely aware of what a dark horse Mickey Hicks could be when it came to the discovery of treasure; he would probably have personal storage bags stashed in the cargo bay ready for the operation.
‘Hey boss, I’d keep two eyes on that one you know! His mother was a pirate!’ Haynes mocked at Hicks’ expense.
Landon shook her head at the joke, laughing quietly, as did Gable.
It had been common for the crew to make fun of Hicks’ pirate ancestry; but he was accustomed to the torment and so he would fight back with equally as taunting remarks.
‘I heard that Kenny! At least mine wasn’t a tree hugger!’ Hicks shot back a minute later.
Kenny Haynes’ mother had been an agriculturalist by profession; of which was indeed a well respected field but Hicks did not possess any other dark information on the man that would warrant him a good taunting, and therefore he had to make do with what he did have.
‘Alright you two, take it easy! No knives this time! Pirates or not, both of your mothers’ are great okay?’ Gable asked in the hopes of quelling the argument before it became an issue.
The last time around, he literally had to pin Haynes down and confiscate his personal bread knife; this was only something that he would carry with him everywhere he went.
‘Okay boss, Mickey, you’re mom is lovely!’ Haynes apologised.
‘Thank you my friend, your mother is not a tree hugger, she is brilliant and also a lovely woman!’ Hicks replied in the same apologetic tones, bringing a wide grin to Gable.
‘Those two could go on forever, alright then time to get them back on track!’ He thought, before refocusing himself.
‘Well that killed some time at least guys! Alright let’s keep monitoring our surveying equipment alright? Keep checking for anomalies along with any more ore types that appear within the system,’ Gable ordered.
With those orders they each bent to the task as Landon walked over to lean on the work station next to Gable.
‘I love to see how they are with you Benj, they could be fighting one minute and then...poof, just as soon as you need them they are there waiting at your side, this is a great crew!’ Landon praised.
‘Damn straight Keira, I hope that present company was included within that observation of yours?’ he asked.
Landon bowed at the praise.
‘Of course, and why thank you Professor!’ she replied.
‘So things are getting hotter aren’t they?’ Landon asked quietly, so that the rest of the crew could not hear them.
‘Yeah and I just wish I knew just how it was getting hotter! All that we can do is hope that whatever it is; it will only occur within this region of space!’ Gable confessed, rubbing the back of his forehead.
He was clearly stressed but not wanting the others to see; Landon knew him too well though and fortunately she could get him through this.
‘I know Benj but there has been no clear signs of this kind of phenomenon anywhere else within the Republic has there? trust me we, will be fine!’ she consoled.
Gable looked into her sincere, piercing eyes as they sought his attention.
‘I know and I do, thanks Keira, have I ever told you just how brilliant you are?’ he added, grinning.
Landon giggled in embarrassment at the romantic gesture; this was undoubtedly something that Gable could never get tired of seeing.
‘Oh well Professor, not enough you see!’ she replied with a smirk.
‘message received, from now on I will say it every hour!’ he promised.
‘Every hour it is then, I shall hold you to that Benj!’ Landon said, pretending to make a note of his promise.
After she put her notepad away, Landon had the sudden urge to check the time.
‘Oh how time flies eh? Speaking of hours Professor; we are just passed the two hour mark now, we had better get everything together!’ with those parting words Landon casually headed back over to her work station.
‘Alright people ten minutes until we are in location to begin mining operations, Mickey how is our equipment looking?’ Gable asked.
‘Shiny professor, everything is primed and ready, cargo bay is clear and ready to receive ore, we are good to go!’
‘I am going to initiate the other four standard ore extractors to assist us too; it will make the job quicker!’ Hicks replied exuberantly from the engineering compartment.
There was nothing for him to do down in that section of the ship yet since the mining equipment control platform was located on the bridge; he would be the first to manually handle his ore and test out one of his new toys in the process.
Life was bliss right now.
’Alright two minute’s guys, Haynes you know the drill, head down to the cargo bay! I want you overseeing the M1 Pulse excavators with Hicks!′ Gable informed
‘You know how those transfer tubes can get if they are over worked, make sure that it stays tidy will you? Hicks will join you down there again in a few minutes.’
‘He has set up the new toys, and shown us how to keep an eye on the controls up here too, of course!’ Gable informed.
Haynes and Hicks exchanged glances; they both knew what they had to do.
A moment later, Hicks set off running up to the bridge.
He was only on the bridge to check upon his equipment for five minutes when Gable mentioned his earlier comment once more.
‘I got it professor! That ore will be kept tidy, I bet my life on that!’ Haynes jested with yet another fist pump as he turned around and began to strut down the corridor; once more out of the bridge’s hatch.
‘We are in position professor...and wait for it...Mining platform is activated!’ Hicks announced to the crew on the bridge as he pressed a sequence of buttons in order to initiate the process.
Following the initiation; the mining process had begun without hindrance.
The mining equipment activated with elegance. This was a prototype after all and it’s young age was portrayed when the mining pulse generator began to amass a tremendous amount of energy.
The attached discharge chambers belonging to the two M1 pulse excavators that were located on the very forward section of the ship were already beginning to fill up with excess energy, as the excavators purred with vigour.
There was only need for one shielded pulse generator according to its creator Mickey Hicks; in his paper he had described the technology as a sort of spider network.
Within his spider network, each of the legs, or in this case the ten turrets located on the outer hull, including the two M1 pulse excavators located at the front of the ship would derive their power supply from the single central generator.
Four additional turrets were also activated; they were no M1 pulse excavators, yet they surged to life as they began to emit pulses of their own.
Six mining lasers were now pinpointing the necessary targets that Hicks had previously chosen from a very long list of candidates.
‘Say Mickey, I know that you’re busy down there but I need your help’ Gable called over the intercom, and after waiting for a minute he received a reply.
‘Sure boss what’s up?’ Hicks asked.
‘Well Mickey, I have already read your papers relating to the technology...but how does this additional power source support all of our pulse emitting equipment again?’ Gable asked curiously.
It became apparent to the crew members that Gable asked the question, more for the benefit of everyone as much as he asked for himself, and he could see that the crew had appreciated it.
‘Well the design of the power source was an almost accidental achievement on my part...but one which generates and stores pulse energy on demand that can be distributed to various equipment around the ship with the push of a button!’. Hicks gloated.
’Now as I mentioned earlier, there are various pieces of equipment on board ‘Procules’ that require the specialised power source! There are ten pieces to be exact! The pulse energy is then sent to the equipment that you choose to activate, and released to complete any given task!′ he continued.
‘It is just like with the pulse excavators that we have online right now!’ Hicks said, taking a breath before continuing on with his ‘simplified’ walkthrough of the pulse energy distribution process.
‘As you may know, the hauling module relies upon a heavy pulse tractor beam in order to function, which effectively draws the object into a close proximity to the ship!’
‘The crew are then able to off load it, and then store it away in the cargo hold safely!’ with another quick intake of air he continued on with his description.
‘Okay, then there is the salvaging module which once again utilises pulse energy as a means to recover wreckage or anything else in space, or somewhere that human controlled methods could not be employed.’
‘We even have two spare hard points available on the ship for the fitting of any new technology that we are able to come by in the future; this ship is built to last a long, long time after all!’
‘It is a brilliant design if I may say so myself!’ Hicks mocked, his modesty being virtually non-existent.
With a gentle tapping on the bulkhead of the cargo bay; the others on the bridge each clapped their hands together in due applause.
It was almost time; Haynes was leaning up against the opposite bulkhead impatiently waiting for the first return cycle of ore.
‘Here we have it, the first cycle of ore at last!’ Hicks rubbed his hands together with a wink at Haynes next to him.
‘There’s more to come brother! Let’s get this stored and analysed once more okay?’ Haynes asked as they both began to painfully shift the heavy ore pile over into the far corner of the cargo hold.
‘What was that?...Professor...you know how I set the star system surveying equipment to conduct automatic and continuous scans of the entire star system?’ Gable looked back at Dares, before jogging over to her work station with Landon following behind him in quick succession.
‘Yeah I remember...’ Gable replied.
‘Well there was a huge temporal anomaly just now, over behind the larger moon that belongs to the main planet, and the system spotted it...’ Dares began to report, cutting herself off while she began to survey the area in more detail.
Gable was just as shocked as Dares had been at the news, there had only been a few relatively small temporal anomalies thus far; things were clearly getting worse.
‘Is there anything there now Helena? The last thing we need is another ship appearing!’ Gable confided with a sigh.
‘No professor not a ship...’ she replied.
Gable and Landon must have looked relived for a mere second when her phrasing of the reply suddenly dawned upon them.
‘If it’s not a ship then what could it be Helena?’ Landon asked.
‘Well...It appears to be a structure of some kind, not just any average structure though boss, this place is huge!' she replied in awe.
'After running a few checks, I now know for certain that there is nothing like this located throughout the Republic nor has there been in the past! That’s right...we have ourselves another case of time shifting on our hands!’ Dares announced, openly terrified now.
'If not from the past or the present...then where?' Landon began.
'I know just as much as you Keira!' Dares snapped back.
‘Great now we have more and more questions...this is the last thing that we needed!’ Gable remarked, once more shaking his head at the implications of the most recent anomaly.
‘You two get all of that down there?’ Gable asked, calling down to Hicks and Haynes in engineering.
‘Yeah boss, what should we do? You want us up there?’ Hicks asked.
‘Negative! We need to do what we are capable of doing, that structure is in a stable orbit somehow, and it’s not going anywhere right Helena?’ Gable asked.
‘Right professor, I haven’t seen anything like it, but I can tell you that we would never be able to fully explore something of that size!'
'For one thing, there could be anything in there! Contagions, space mice...anything!’ Dares replied, surprising herself at the poor attempt at a joke, despite the terrifying situation facing them.
‘Good point Helena, alright everyone, carry on with what you are doing, keep mining and I will contact the government right now, we need to get the military involved!’ Gable replied.
Five minutes later Gable was seated back at the communications terminal in the process of contacting the deep space government once again.
After a further ten minutes of failed attempts Gable had finally succeeded in creating a communications link; if one could scarcely call it that.
The linkup was full of static interference of which had resulted in the conversion being very difficult to participate in for both parties.
‘Mr President, we have an urgent matter to discuss I’m afraid’ Gable began.
'I still find it strange that I have the ear of the President...most people would kill for that' he thought to himself.
‘We were getting worried Benjamin; we kept receiving sporadic static calls from an unknown sender!'
'We thought that it might be you but...we had no idea where the static was coming from!’ Kayden replied.
‘Oh Jim, you don’t know the half of it!’ Gable said.
It had taken Gable over half an hour to brief the president on the current situation. President Kayden had kept both hands covering his mouth while he attempted to process what had been primarily, unwelcome news.
‘About these anomalies Professor; are they that bad?’ Kayden asked, using professional tones once more.
‘I’m afraid so, and it looks like it’s getting worse, right now I think that it would be best to stay on board the ship in order to remain mobile in the face of such unpredictable factors!’ Gable suggested hopelessly.
‘Yes, yes, a good call it would seem from what you have told me! Now about this mysterious structure, are you requesting assistance Benjamin?’ Kayden asked.
‘Yeah Jim, that place looks so damn big...it would take us far too long to explore it alone!'
'From what we have seen here so far we might have our hands full with problems later, so yes Mr President, I am formally requesting assistance!’ Gable pleaded.
‘Request accepted professor, who do you need?’ Kayden asked, ready to help Gable out in any way that he could.
‘Well Jim, first things first we need a sizeable military boarding party, plus any research scientists that you can spare...like I said this place is huge and it would take us too long to complete any analysis’s of the place...which would be a mistake anyway given the conditions outside!' he continued.
'Hell, we still don't even know how these objects are appearing here in the first place!’ Gable admitted.
‘You’ll have them Benjamin! I don’t know how many I can get right away, but I will send everyone that I find! I will dispatch them immediately!’ Kayden promised.
‘Thank you Jim, we will make sure that our spare quarters are prepared for use!’ Gable added.
‘Very well, I will send two heavy armoured assault transports carrying what my staff tell me will be...approximately twenty scientists with a total of one hundred marines to make up the boarding party, will that be enough?’ Kayden asked sincerely.
‘Excellent, yeah Jim we will need every single one of them in there!'
'I almost forgot, remember how I mentioned the incident where we spontaneously fell out of warp space into an Ion cloud...well in order to avoid that nightmare, those two vessels will have to stay away from that dead core star system by following this route I am forwarding to you now!'
'There you go Jim! If they follow this it will add an additional hour or so onto the overall journey, but it is most certainly better than getting stuck there like we almost were!’ Gable advised.
'Very good thank you Benjamin, I will pass this information onto the crews of those ships before they depart; they will arrive in two weeks and one day!'
'They will have their own quarters on board their own ships but if research or any emergency for that matter warrants them to use the available quarters aboard ‘Procules’ then they will already be prepared, right?’ Kayden asked.
‘Exactly, alright then Jim I will make preparations for them now; and in the mean time, we will continue to mine asteroids and explore this rapidly destabilizing star system until they arrive, Gable out’ he finished.
‘Very good, all the best to you and your crew old friend, keep me updated, Kayden out’.
'That conversation could have been worse' he thought before returning to the bridge.
The walk was quite quick, faster than usual it seemed.
‘Well guys, President Kayden sends his best...oh and we have got help! Two armoured transports, around twenty scientists and approximately one hundred marines, basically everything we could need to board this facility or whatever the hell it is!’ Gable reported.
The crew had needed a win; and this good news had certainly delivered on that wish.
‘So...we have got another two weeks and one day, give or take a few hours to explore this star system...I’m talking mining, salvage, you name it...Mickey...what do you think?’ Gable asked, unable to hide his joy at seeing Hicks’ bewildered face.
‘Geez boss, I can hardly breathe I’m that excited...well we are making good progress with this current mining cycle anyway; and another two weeks couldn’t hurt...just a thought though boss...you did inform them to change their course slightly in order to avoid having what happened to us happen to them, right?’ Hicks asked.
‘Don’t worry Mickey I told the President, and he will inform those crews immediately before they depart. We will need to prepare every available living quarters that we have, just in case they are required during the mission, but besides that we are right on schedule!’ Gable replied.
‘Brilliant professor, I will get on with those quarters now while Mickey mines his precious ore and Keira can take over from my surveying of the star system for the time being’ Dares commented with a grin.
‘Very good... alright let’s get to it then!’ Gable ordered.
Unlike the irritating prolonged wait that the crew had to endure on their journey toward this place; those two weeks had been much different.
They were already here in one piece after all; and they were doing exactly what they did best, they were exploring a new star system.
The constant appearance of unstable temporal anomalies throughout the star system throughout the last several days had also kept them occupied of course.
They have a cargo hold full of rare ore; and they had been able to salvage left over debris from a few of these anomalies, some of which included artefacts from ancient satellite antennae to unrecognisable metallic panelling from who knows what.
‘We have found some crazy stuff out here haven’t we Professor?’ Dares questioned while she remained focused on her own surveying screens.
‘Yup, things are heading towards the nearest black hole that's for sure!’ Gable agreed.
‘Time is clearly being warped out there! take a look at all of the unstable temporal anomalies popping up all over the damned place! These displaced artefacts could have come from anywhere...or any time for that matter!’ Gable added.
‘I agree, if a bridge that had once existed in the past has somehow managed to crash into this planet here in our timeline then there is no telling what could be waiting for us around the corner!’ Dares replied.
‘It certainly gets you thinking doesn’t it? Well I’ll tell you something we do know though’ Dares continued.
It was Gables turn to look curious now.
‘What’s that Helena?’ he asked.
‘Heh! I bet the scientists are going to be ecstatic with all of this stuff when they get here!’ she replied, and they both laughed at the idea.
Scientists could indeed brood over all of these artefacts for eternity without becoming bored.
‘Hey, speaking of which, those geeks are due here soon aren’t they?’ Dares added, looking shocked for a moment.
‘What! Oh my, I know that they say 'how time flies' but I had no idea it was this fast...that’s right...it's almost time!'
'That is providing that there were no problems on their journey...and here’s hoping that there wasn’t, in which case they should arrive here within the hour!’ Gable confirmed.
‘Let’s get everything sealed away tight guys! There will be time to look at it later, Mickey!’ Gable yelled over the intercom.
‘Look at what boss?’ Hicks asked innocently.
'Put it back!’ Gable replied, laughing.
Hicks knew exactly what Gable had meant, yet he remained ignorant of the fact.
‘You stealing again Mickey, he’ll shoot you if you're not careful!’ Haynes mused.
‘Nah...the boss loves me; he’s like a kitten when it comes to talking to me!’ Hicks replied.
‘If you say so’ Haynes added.
‘I heard that you two! But thanks for the compliment, I think!’ Gable shot back over the communication system.
Haynes and Hicks did not expect that kind of reply; they both looked at each other and burst into laughter like two little children.
‘Sorry boss, we’re nearly done with this anyway, give us five minutes!’ Hicks answered for them both.
‘Not a problem, finish that then meet us up on the bridge!’ Gable ordered.
‘So Keira, have you discovered anything about who was originally occupying this star system and for how long?’ Gable asked.
Landon looked slightly hesitant now.
‘Well Benj, honestly we have no idea about who was here first!’ she replied with a sigh.
‘I sense a 'but' coming?’ Gable asked in amusement.
‘You know me too well!...I believe that those crop-marks down there on the planet's surface would suggest that the settlement was around two and a half thousand years old, give or take one hundred years!'
'Either someone was here...or the whole setting is a result of the temporal anomalies, again!’ she added.
‘This keeps getting more and more interesting!’ Gable said, doing so, loud enough that the rest of the crew had heard.
Dares keyed into the conversation now.
‘How so Professor?’ she asked.
‘Well I’m just thinking back to the early colonization days...again’ Gable replied.
‘Right, your referring to the period of time during the mass colonization effort again right? Where we pretty much colonized in every direction, except this one...’ Landon confirmed.
‘Yeah, but maybe, just maybe...all of those years ago the government had decided to cover up our presence within this region of space for some insane reason! What do you think?’ Gable reasoned.
‘Hmm...well it’s all theory at this point...but you do have a theory, which is more than I have right now; so if humanity did colonize this star system then we clearly weren’t here for long at all!' Landon replied.
'When we consider that there is only one settlement on that paradise of a planet as well!’ Landon said, still thinking.
‘I have just thought of something else that directly supports this hypothesis of yours Benj; there is also the fact that the asteroid belts within this star system were completely untouched...’ she had left off there in order to let Gable and Dares arrive at the same conclusion.
‘Right I see, if humanity were here once upon a time, for a lengthily period of time then there would be no more ore to speak of, right! Something that our own Mickey Hicks here would no doubt confirm in a second?’ Dares asked first making the others laugh some more.
Alarms were blaring from the survey console now as they cut off anything else that Landon was about to say.
‘Ah they are here, finally!’ Gable rejoiced.
The two ships that were slightly larger in length and width than ‘Procules’ flashed into existence from what would have no doubt been an eventful journey as well.
Both ships were of an identical design; the Barbel class troop transport to be precise, their intended purpose was to transport marines from one location to another.
It was because of this particular purpose that the transports were quite simplistic in their layout.
The Barbel class transport had been outfitted with additional armour plating and heavy shields; along with the recently developed stealth system which would no doubt prove to be a critical asset whilst traversing through unknown territory.
The Barbel class vessel was also equipped with six small mid range missile turrets which were ideal for creating a grand entrance where there had not been a one before.
Both vessels were metallic grey colour; from which the smooth outer hull of each vessel glistened off of the sun with a beauty that would disguise their true nature.
With the assistance of this new stealth technology; each ship had created a shimmering effect, of which had immediately become apparent as the signatures of the ships began to appear and disappear sporadically upon the ‘Procules’ surveying systems as they exited warp space at an accelerated pace.
One could only achieve such a feat if they were being pursued.
It appeared that the crews’ of those two vessels had decided to activate their stealth systems during warp for some unfathomable reason.
Dares sighed with relief at the sight of the two ships on the sensors.
‘Ah professor they are actually three minutes late! It looks like we got carried away and wasted more time again, what are we to do?’ Dares asked smugly.
Gable smiled at her uplifted attitude.
‘I know kiddo, we can talk for Julos I tell you!’ he mocked.
What Hicks had said would take five minutes, had actually taken the better part of an hour.
The final debris fragments and ore samples began arriving at the docking bay at the last minute.
All five of them were on the bridge now though gathering around the communications terminal; the whole crew were up there ready in wait for the two ships to open communications with them.
‘Procules’ this is Colonel Conrad of the marine transport vessel ‘Star Hunter’ and I have the transport vessel ‘Hercules’ piloted by Major Olso, along with me.
Both ‘Hercules’ and ‘Star Hunter’ are requesting permission to dock with you, we need to get rid of these scientists Professor! They are killing us! They have been asking where we were at since they climbed on board! Over.’
Gable and the others laughed at the Colonel’s request; they could just imagine the kind of torment that would come from one scientist who was hold up on a ship for weeks with them in anticipation of discoveries and unknown breakthroughs.
There were over twenty scientists with the marines on this voyage though.
'That’s got to have been hell for them, no doubt ‘Procules’ will have a full house on the way home then, but what were the activated stealth systems about earlier, I need to find out about that.' He thought to himself.
‘Say Colonel, I have to ask, why did your ships have their stealth systems activated upon entering the star system?’ Gable questioned.
The Colonel took a moment to answer as he increasingly began to look horrified; staring off into one corner of the bridge before focussing back on Gables image.
‘Professor, we...we saw something out there following us in warp space!’ Colonel Conrad replied.
Gable looked even more curious now, he had assumed that it had been a result of a random testing, yet there was no real need for them in warp space.
‘Something you say? Like what?’ Gable asked.
‘Well professor, you’re going to think that we have lost it but...I could have sworn that it was some kind of mechanical dragon-like creature, our systems could not track it though so we don’t have any proof besides the fact that almost the entire crew saw the damned thing!’ Conrad replied.
‘It can’t be...’ Gable replied with a gasp of breath and the Colonel now appeared to want to challenge his comment before realising that he had not yet finished speaking.
‘We saw that damn thing of yours back in Warden star system Colonel; like you said, it had appeared and disappeared quickly, but...not before making a lunge towards the Odysseus deep space station!’ Gable quickly added.
‘Seriously?...well it made a similar lunge toward both of our ships in warp space of all places...about ten minutes before we were due to exit...and then it vanished, that’s when I ordered both ships to activate their stealth systems, I figured that if that thing could hide...then we could at least try, and it appears that it worked somehow!’ Conrad said.
‘Hmm, this is odd!’ Gable said, thinking out loud.
‘Professor?’ Conrad asked, worry appearing on his face.
‘Yeah, sorry Colonel, just thinking here, why is it only appearing now? I would call it an isolated event if we had only witnessed it in Warden, but now its appearing here as well!'
'We haven’t seen the creature since Warden; and that was well over a month ago now, you've got to be wondering what the hell’s going on here right?’ Gable asked, plainly waiting to see what Conrad had to say about the current state of events.
‘No kidding Professor, well I guess we just keep our stealth systems activated for our entire stay here, you can mark our signals before we go dark...so that you don’t lose us but I don’t feel safe enough to leave them offline right now!’ Conrad admitted.
‘Okay first things first let’s get those scientists off you; apparently they have been a bit of a minor annoyance to you and your marines?’ Gable asked with a remarkably straight face.
‘Very funny Professor, and you have no idea!’
‘You're right, I don’t but I’m sure that I will find out soon enough!’ Gable agreed shaking his head.
‘Anyway Colonel, I read thirty minutes until your ships are docked with us since we had decided on parking up near to where you would enter the star system!' Gable added.
'Can you hold on that long marine?’ Gable visibly joked and the marine had taken notice of the jibe.
'We have no choice do we Professor? But I will tell you, more than anything...the boys and girls over here cannot wait to hit solid ground, somewhere off of this ship and I’m betting that everyone on board ‘Hercules’ will feel the same way’ Conrad replied.
‘Well then we are all ready here for departure; we have picked up no recent developments from that structure over the past two weeks you will be happy to know!'
'Remember that we can only carry fifteen of those geeks Colonel!’
The marine leader had realised that information earlier; yet it had seemed that Gable’s confirmation of it had made for one unhappy soldier.
'Very well Professor, I will go and pack them up neatly, see you soon, ‘Star Hunter’ out. Conrad finished.
Gable turned to face the others, they had witnessed the entire conversation and so they were barely holding themselves together without laughing.
‘You heard the man, they want to get those geeks over to us bad, I know everything is ready but let’s make sure once more okay, since we now have fifteen definite residents coming with us!’ Gable said.
Landon went down to examine what Dares had previously done with the quarters; she had Hicks in tow this time while the others sat on the bridge awaiting the adjoining of the two vessels.
The crew of ‘Hercules’ had not forwarded any complaints in regards to their accommodations according to Colonel Conrad on board ‘Star Hunter’ which was probably only because there had been no nagging scientists aboard that ship for the duration of the journey.
This was something that would most likely change; next time around if Colonel Conrad on ‘Star Hunter’ had anything to say about it when that time came.
That was it, both ships were now connecting to each other via their parallel docking hatches; and there would be no doubt that Colonel Conrad had the scientists waiting just outside the hatch area ready to offload the unwanted cargo.
With a loud crashing sound of the rectangular connection tube impacting the portside forward docking hatch of the ‘Procules’; it immediately became air tight when they felt the hatch open on the other ship.
Following what had seemed like a few seconds later; there was a loud knocking at the hatch.
Gable headed over to greet them as he smiled at Colonel Conrad who wanted to deliver the group in person.
‘He must really want rid of them!’ Gable chuckled quietly to the crew before swinging ‘Procules’ forward hatch open with ease.
'Welcome aboard ‘Procules’ Colonel!’ Gable spoke politely as he introduced him to the rest of his crew individually.
‘She’s a beauty Professor!’ Conrad reassured with a brief nod as he gazed around the bridge.
‘You bet she is!’ Dares added in agreement.
The scientists were pouring in now as the crew were directing them to their quarters; more than a few of them had requested to look at the recovered artefacts already, yet they could not afford the time to do so until they had explored the mysterious looking facility nearby.
About an hour later, all of the scientists were tucked away with their own little projects and research to occupy their minds until they eventually reached the facility.
These projects involved data from the planet, from debris surveys, photographic imagery of debris along with some small samples of ore that Hicks begrudgingly parted with. There were even numerous reports of which the crew of ‘Procules’ had completed since their arrival in the star system for the scientist's to dive into.
Gable put forward a conference call to ‘Star Hunter’ and ‘Hercules’ who both answered straight away; they were finally realising that the time had come for them to truly be able to stretch their legs.
‘This is Professor Gable, this is it guys, moment of truth, let’s go and see what’s over there shall we?’ he asked, openly grinning at the prospect of finally being able to move on with their journey again.
Both marine boarding party leaders grinned in reply to the invitation.
‘Hell yes Professor, we’ll see you on the other side...we will keep an eye out for docking entrances of any kind while we are on approach and we will keep you informed!’ Conrad replied.
‘Not a problem we will see you there then, we will follow in close pursuit since you are the ones with the fixed armament after all, Gable out,’ He finished.
After hanging up the call to the marines; all three ships immediately began to rapidly surge into motion towards the looming facility.
‘What is happening? Mickey the ship is shifting all over the damned place!’ Gable yelled down to engineering.
They had only been moving for fifty minutes now and there was already trouble.
‘What the...’ Hicks replied in an equally subdued tone.
‘It’s only happening to us! How is that even possible?’ Gable demanded even though he knew as much as they did, still it could never hurt to try anyway.
‘It’s not possible!’ Haynes added abruptly.
‘Well it sure is happening! Even the marines are asking what the hell we are doing dancing all over the place! Let alone those pesky scientists, and I got nothing to tell them!’ Gable argued, brushing one hand across his head to wipe away the dripping sweat.
‘Mickey here, what can I say boss, an event such as this would affect every ship within the vicinity of it unless...never mind!’ he began.
‘Never mind what?’ Gable asked immediately after, his impatience clear.
‘Well its silly really, but I was just thinking back to that creature with the marine ships earlier...a warning of sorts, an event, one that did not affect us even though we were already here in this star system, and now this!' Hicks contemplated.
'Boss, I just get the feeling that something doesn’t want us to get over to the facility!’ Hicks finished.
‘That’s not silly at all Mickey, I mean there is no other possible explanation for this is there? If there was we would jump on it, no...Someone or...something has done this deliberately!’ Dares agreed.
Landon looked back at her in grim determination before looking around the bridge, as she prepared to speak up.
‘Well we are here, and this is happening...so what the hell! I don’t mind telling you guys, Benj if any beings could possess such a technology that could selectively alter the trajectory of a ship this size during transit, it could be invaluable if it was acquired, we have to keep going!’ Landon summarised.
Gable nodded at her sound theory.
‘I agree, there could be anything over there, especially considering the fact that the facility was hidden to begin with, we must go!’ he said.
‘Alright we keep on going, Mickey, Kenny keep monitoring our engineering systems below will you? There is no telling what kind of damage is being caused by this interference but regardless we need to keep on top of it!’ Gable ordered.
‘We’re on it boss!’ Hicks acknowledged since, Haynes was still on his way down below to help him.
‘Helena, Keira, you two keep surveying our current track and co-ordinate with me, we will have to manually alter our trajectory every time we are forced off course!'
'We can do this, I will inform the marines of our intentions now!’ Gable ordered again, before calling ‘Star Hunter’.
‘Hey Colonel, as you noticed before we are having some problems over here, basically we believe that the creature and this weird interference are connected somehow...the creature never actually attacked did it?' he asked.
' I believe that it veered off at the last moment...both times, yet ultimately it scared the hell out of us, as if if that wasn’t enough of a deterrent to stop us from coming here, now my ship is being pummelled by this artificial force whereas you ship's are not!’ Gable waited one moment, realising belatedly that he had answered his own question.
‘See a pattern?’ he finally asked Conrad.
‘Thanks for allowing me to speak Professor! I do, but it’s hard to believe isn’t it? I can’t think of any other reason though, especially since we did not get hit by this 'force' if that's what we are calling it now!’ Conrad replied, shaking his head in disbelief.
‘Alright professor what’s the plan here?’ Conrad hastily added.
Gable waved over the bridge of ‘Procules’ to emphasise the point he was about to make.
‘We are going to manually adjust our course when necessary in order to compensate for these annoying tricks; anyway just keep your distance as a safety precaution and all will be well!’ Gable promised with a level of optimism that he did not feel.
‘Got it professor, keep us posted will you? Colonel Conrad, out’.
'One way or another...we have to get through this!' Gable announced to the bridge crew.
Gable returned to his command seat now with all manner of haste; they would get to the facility no matter what it took.
Although the practice of manually entering trajectory alterations every twenty to thirty minutes had been an irritating one; they had somehow managed to do so by rotating watch standing shifts over the twenty four hours of travel time and now they were a mere hour away from discovering whatever mysteries lay hidden within the ancient superstructure.
‘Look at that outer hull damage! That place has taken one hell of a beating!’ Gable almost shouted.
‘No kidding!’ Dares agreed.
‘But...some of this technology looks familiar...the basic design that is!’ he added.
'What? Like they stole our technology kind of familiar or futuristic mining vessel from Warden star system kind of familiar I wonder?’ Gable thought.
‘Futuristic Professor, our scans are identifying similar traces of raw materials that were used to construct the mining vessel which we discovered purely by accident’ Dares smiled.
‘Well in that case, we had better hurry! You two down in engineering you hear that?’ Gable asked.
‘We heard you boss, it’s exciting isn’t it?’ Hicks asked in reply, the man would find happiness in anything it seemed.
‘Absolutely I feel like a kid on their birthday I tell you!’ Gable reflected, trying to match Hicks’ high spirit.
‘Well we are almost there, I see some form of a docking platform approaching fast!’ Gable pointed in the general direction of the facility.
‘I see it Professor, it seems that the trajectory altering anomaly has dissipated as well, ah I wonder if it has something to do with...’ Dares began.
‘What the hell was that, it sounded like something exiting warp space with the power of a nova, but of course we would be dead right now if that were the case!’ Gable confirmed before anyone could correct him.
The previously silent background of space upon the opposite side of the facility to where they were currently at; began to shake under repetitive impacts of what the sensors identified as being large plasma bursts of energy, small sections of the structure began to groan in pain as they were being tormented by an unrelenting foe, and then it had stopped abruptly.
The aftermath was somewhat unsettling.
‘I’m checking through the incoming data professor!’ Dares reported.
A minute or so later, Dares spoke up again.
‘I have keyed the marines into this conversation for you; they will no doubt want to hear this! I have the survey results back and what...wait a minute according to this, there were two ships around the same size as us but of an unknown origin...it looks like their weapons couldn’t even make a dent, so it clearly wasn’t them who caused the other damage to the facility that we can see from here!’ Dares added.
‘Yes it does look like they just picked up and left when they realised that they were not doing anything to it, strange!’ Dares finished, scratching her forehead in confusion.
'Yet they were the only other forces firing at the facility?' Landon asked incredulously.
'Apparently so!' Dares answered in amazement.
‘Alright, well we will probably be safer in there then!’ Gable suggested dryly.
‘I agree Professor; we will lead the way in as planned!’ Conrad said, nodding as he left the conversation.
Amidst the eerie silence of the cosmic ballet that was space; yet another sudden rampageous clatter could be heard from across the star system.
Dares was visibly trembling at the sight.
For one tiny moment their mission had been back on schedule; yet a mere twenty five minutes later, everything had changed, again.
‘Professor! Those bastard's are back with two more ships but they aren’t heading for the facility this time...they are...No it can't be!'
'They are coming straight for us!’ Dares cried, drowning out everyone else’s voices on the bridge.