A Place for Us
The Raido Project
There is a price to pay for progress.
“Roger, it’s time to wake up.”
There had been a synaptic reaction to the use of his name so the computer administered a small dose of adrenaline and emitted a low level shock to his system. Just enough to cause a muscle twitch or endues a hiccup.
Roger blinked and sat up suddenly coughing. His hands reached up to his chest and he braced himself with one hand on the side of the sleep pod.
“Good Morning Roger, I hope you slept well.” The familiar male voice came over the coms.
Roger started to breath slower and he choked out a response.
“Hey Spencer, water?”
“To your right along with your things. Please be careful not to spill.”
He drank the entire contents of the cup and let out a breath. “Not sure why but every time I come out of this thing my throat feels dry.” He ran his hands over his face and chest.
“Psychosomatic, but as long as I’m here I’ll provide whatever you need. Let me know when you’re ready for debriefing.”
“Is anyone else...” He stopped and shook his head, Spencer would tell him later.
Roger stepped out of the reclined bed and began his stretches. He checked the readout on his heart rate and had the treadmill expand from the wall. After a thirty minute jog he stripped and got into the shower. A few minutes later he was dressed with a towel around his neck, his hair ruffled and still damp. He grabbed his memo pad and exited the rehab room. The hallway outside lit up as he made his way to the debriefing room.
The round debriefing room was an upper level central room, right above the computer hub and below the main bridge. A large rounded table with eight chairs was already lit up and one seat was occupied by another member of the crew.
Blue eyes gazed up from a memo pad and she nodded as he entered.
“Carol, good to see you up and about, seems like only yesterday I last saw you.” He said to her as he flopped down into a chair.
She gave him a wry smile. “That’s cause ‘to us’ it was yesterday Roger.”
“Got any idea how long we’ve been out? I’m guessing with the two of us being out this is more an engineering problem than we’ve reached our destination issue.”
“Spencer hasn’t told me yet, waiting on you and your workout routine.”
“Regulations say we gotta keep up a healthy heart rate, if you’re interested I could give you some pointers.” His grin split his darker toned face. “I did a stint on Mars as a physical therapist.”
Carol on the other hand was very pale, her bright red hair was pulled back into a ponytail. “At least with power as it is, we’re not looking at a damaged relay, could be coms or external issue. Probably looking at a walk.”
“I’d say your guess was as good as mine but you’re guesses are usually way better than mine.”
“Good Morning Carol, Roger.” Spencer’s voice emitted from all around the room.
“So Spence, what’s going on? How’s the Corsair?”
“Well as you have surmised we’ve not reached out destination yet. Mission parameters state that in cases of damage to vital systems or unexplained non ship related issues, the crew is required to...”
“I get it, we all signed on the dotted line. No point reminding me my soul is sold, there’s something you need us for that you can’t handle on your own.”
“Correct. As you already know during the estimated time for us to reach our destination is around three hundred years. We’re currently at the two hundred and eleven year mark. It’s actually March 23rd.
“Just missed my birthday.” Carol shook her head.
“So, what’s the problem?”
There was a pause and a graph of the ship appeared above the table.
“Exterior sensors went off line thirty years ago, a correction was made and some of them were brought back online and deemed manageable till exterior environment was suitable for spacewalk. The other issue is the interior power relay on that side was disconnected somehow. As the system can be powered from the remaining five relays and they are working at over 80% efficiency as well it was deemed that immediate maintenance was uneeded.”
“So we blew a tire and you put on a spare till we could replace it.”
“I don’t think that analogy correctly correlates to the situation but I believe I follow your thought pattern so yes.”
“Why was it deemed ok to wait, these exterior environmental issues.”
“The ship went through a massive radiation zone that fluctuated with high and low ranges that were deemed too dangerous for EVA. As the issue persisted the systems were rerouted and left alone until EVA was possible. In truth the current situation poses no problem and leaving the sensors down would pose no real risk to the mission, however, having everything in working order when we reach our destination would be preferable.”
“So, change a spare tire. No big whoop.” Roger leaned back and put his feet on the table. “Quick walk to check out the damage and estimate repairs, then patch it up and back to bed?”
“Depending on what the damage is, we’re looking at an estimated twenty to forty hour work needed window.”
“That estimate includes the replacement of parts for the printer and time for printing parts we don’t already have ready?” Carol asked curiously.
“Some more likely parts have been printed already, but in case a part is broken we don’t have I’ve already inputted the main maintenance codes for all parts that should be needed.
“Well we just need to be careful then, cause the only thing you can’t replace is us, right Spencer?”
“This isn’t a Hahn ship Roger.”
He got up and passed Carol giving her a high five. They shared a smile and went about their assigned tasks.
Roger headed down to the air lock and started running tests on the EVA suit and then went through the processes of putting on the cumbersome suit. The lower decks, below maintenance, didn’t have artificial gravity as the tech was limited in it’s use. The lower levels of the ship didn’t require gravity, as long as crew quarters and regular work and living spaces had gravity it was deemed less a strain on power resources. When he reached for his gloves he noticed something strange.
“Did you replace my gloves while I was in cryo?”
“Why do you ask?”
Roger paused a second and held up the right glove and looked around the rim of the wrist. “I put a symbol, a rune for safe travels, on the inside of this glove when we first came on board.”
“Ah, that is very possible, automatic systems repair any damaged part automatically. It’s a subroutine. A drone must have sent it in for replacement. I can look into it if you’d like.”
Roger nodded, as he put the glove on. “No, it’s fine, I didn’t tell you about it. Didn’t think it mattered.”
“If you want I’ll make sure to instruct the drones to be a little less meticulous when checking your gear.”
Roger chuckled at the AI’s obvious joke, or hopes it was. “No, that won’t be necessary.”
“Just let me know if you do it again, I’ll modify the drone parameters to exclude labeling.” Spencer said with a hint of real concern in his digital voice.
“It’s fine Spencer, but thank you.”
“As an AI I may be limited to mimicing human responses, but I was top of the line when we launched.”
Slipping the helmet over his head he snapped it into place and pressurized his suit. The internal COMS light lit up and Spencer’s voice continued.
“Not only do I look after this ship as if it’s my own body, in a sense, I also look after the crew as if they were...”
There was a pause.
“Having a hard time correlating that one?” Roger smiled.
“It seemed Children would be correct, but you are fully developed and not raised by me. As you are inside me I could say you were my cells, but I think that correlates more to the drones.”
“Just what I wanted to hear, the artificial Intelligence of the ship is having a hard time determining the value and corrilation of it’s crew.”
“You are all very important to me Roger.”
Opening the inner doors to the airlock Roger stepped into the small room. “I know Spencer, we love you too.”
“This is why no one likes you, you always get Dad’s heartfelt chats.” Carol came over the Coms from observation.
“I regard you as equally important Carol.” Spencer pointed out.
“Too little too late, I know who your favorite is.”
“Did you know that when they were originally deciding on my name they had thought to use just the word “Father” for this same conversational reasoning. They decided it might cause certain issues depending on the crew members, making my AI too familiar for them. Deep space psychoses might cause delusions.”
“Plus who vants to obey zeir faza?” Roger worked out a horribly old german accent.
“I’m sure that was a correlation as well.” Carol chuckled. “Roger, you ready for your space walk?”
“Time to earn that paycheck.”
The room flashed red and a klaxon blared as the room was vacated of air. The outer doors opened and Roger hooked his lifeline to the large hoop outside the door. White metal handles like a ladder ran up the right side of the large cylindical lower midsection of the ship.
“External Coms is spotty, if we lose contact you’ll have to go it solo till you get back into range.” Carol pointed out as she kept an eye on his vitals.
His mag boots clicked on and he swung himself to the flat walkway near the ladder and pushed himself upright. Secondary systems. In case the boots went out or lost power, the ladders were necessary. The view of the expanse of the ship before him was awe inspiring at times. It looked like it wasn’t really there, like a cut out over a black background. From here he couldn’t make out any damageso he walked his way up to the outer hub.
“Nothing to see so far, but I’m about to fresh the lower hub.”
“you’re still coming in strong on coms.”
Roger grunted as he had to kneel down and grip onto a nearby safety handle. He guaged the distance and released his magnetic boots.
“Roger, what are you doing?”
“It’ll take me another ten minutes to get to the nearest catwalk, I’m taking a short cut.”
“Roger, I don’t think that’s...”
He jumped and sailed across the expance between Hubs 1 and 2. The could see the catwalk from the distance and grinned. Using his suits jets he flipped himself around and readied for touchdown. He could hear his breathing get louder.
“Roger, you asshole! You’re vitals are rising, are you ok? Please tell me you didn’t jump.”
“It’s ok, I won’t tell you I jumped.”
That’s when the coms went out.
“That self absorbed, cowboy bullshit is gonna get him killed! Spencer, do you still have any readings.”
“Checking.” The scans took only a minute before Spencer responded. “No Carol, Roger has either hit the communications dead zone between the hubs, or he has reached the area effected by the sensor blackout.”
“Could we not use ‘dead zone’.”
“Sorry, though I am sure Roger is fine, there is still tension coming from the secure tether. If that makes any difference?”
She waited, listening to the static, waiting for something. “So he could be just dangling out there unconscious.”
“That is a possibility. What do you want to do?”
“We’ll follow protocol.” Carol stood up and made for the observation deck doorway.
“Ang...ela?” Roger’s voice came over the coms.
“Yeah, you’re not.... this is ….” He kept breaking up.
“Roger, you need to get to the catwalk and back into communications range, I can’t hear you.”
“It’s gotta... of ours. I think... an esc... don’t remem... as advanced...”
“Carol, I’m getting readings from Roger’s suit. Pulse rate is up, but within tolerable levels. Data incoming. On Screen.”
Carol dropped her headset where she stood, staring at what she saw on the screen. Images transferred from Roger showed a capsule like object, the size of a small bus, wedged into the space between the lower and middle hubs. It hadn’t hit any vital areas but there were welded metal clamps on it’s exterior that look like they had been done post impact.
Someone had hit them, then latched onto their ship.
“Spencer, could that be some kind of escape pod?”
“It is possible, but if my interpretation of what Roger said was correct, it’s not one of ours.”
“You mean, Hahn?”
“That is possible but unlikely, it seems too advanced. Also Hahn ships were not set to enter into this region on any of their paths.”
“No Terra Corp secret deep research facilities we should know about?”
“If I knew, I couldn’t tell you. I can however say no, and you’d have to either believe me or not.”
“I think it’s siphoning off the ships power, someone’s spliced into the ships systems, but it seems like only low level power is being used.” Roger’s voice crackled. “I’m gonna see if I can find a access port. Spencer, you said this thing his about 30 years ago?”
“Correct. Though I’d be cautious of entering an unknown ship. Please be careful.”
“Should we wake the rest of the crew? This seems like something the captain should see.”
“It would take me several hours to ready inert systems and wake those personnel needed. I think we should determine what we can, document the data, and then asses possibilities.”
“For someone to set those clamps, it would mean that there is someone on board that thing. I really think that security protocols apply here.”
There was a pause. “I understand, however impact was over thirty years ago, it is reasonable to assume, as none of my systems have been accessed, anyone inside the vessel is most likely dead. If the shuttle contained cryogenics equipment there would be a larger drain on the ships systems.
“Spencer, I still think it important to wake the captain and at least one member of the security team.”
“Understood. I am preparing cryogenic beds.”
“Thank you Spencer.”
“Roger, I’m having Spencer wake the Captain and someone from security, might be best to pull back till we can get two people out there.”
“Sullivan, it’ll be Sullivan. You’re gonna wake Sully aren’t you Spencer?”
“That is correct, he is the leading EVA member on board this ship.”
“Besides me, no. I’m not gonna sit on my ass while you warm up that frosted military fruitcake. I’m an engineer, I’ll determine if the shuttle posses an issue to ship, processes my report, and get back in bed before that guy can shake off his cryofrosting.”
“Roger!” Carol snapped.
“Roger is no longer in communication range.”
Carol picked up the head set and sat back down at her station and drummed her fingers on it’s edge. “Keep me informed on when the captain can be debriefed.”
“Not today, wake up , stretch my legs, and then have to listen to that pedantic jerk till bedtime? Not if I can help it.” He reached down and grabbed the mag straps from his suit. Activating them he spider limbed up the side of the vessel and around to what looked to be the air lock. He checked to make sure all the sensors of his suit were working and that his audio was ready to start recording.
“Engineering Log. Site is external conduit between Hubs 1 and 2. A foreign vessel of unknown make and model has lodged itself into the ship and an outside individual or indivuduals have fastened the vessel to the ship. Most likely it has been tied into existing ships power systems.”
He grabbed onto the outer handles near the airlock and ran a hand over what should be the lock panel. It lit up red. “The most I look at this thing the most I think it’s an escape pod of some kind. Bit larger than our single man pods, but the design is similar I that it’s shape is slightly conical with heat shielding on the larger end. Structural damage is minimal but Spencer should have determined an impact unless the radiation zone was intense enough to knock out sub systems.”
He reached around and release a large rectangular box connected to a tether. Opening the box he pulled out a large metal rod.
“Attempting the pry open electrical access to the door controls.” He grabbed the rod and was about to pry at the ships outer hull when a thought came to him.
Weilding the metal rod like a hammer and tapped the outer door three times, then waited, his free gloved hand pressed against the door. There was no response.
He tapped again, gave it a minute, still nothing.
He hooked up his scanning tool and let the tool scan the existing system, trying to communicate. He was able to pull the schematic of the shuttle and activate the internal systems. From what he could tell the shuttle had a small one manned air lock and a decent sized habitat section. The shuttle was a good thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide at it’s base. It resembled a blocky white and silver tear drop.
“So, looks like no ones on board. No life signs. So either he/she got spaced, or I’m about to enter a tomb.”
The light on the panel turned green and the airlock door opened.
The doorway opened and closed like an iris, unlike the outer doors of the ship.
Turning on his suit lights he dropped into the airlock. The door shut behind him and there was a familiar rushing sound of air, and to his surprise there was the sudden feel of gravity. He unlocked his mag boots and opened the inner airlock. The inner door was much thicker and similar to the type he’d seen on the ship.
The inside of the shuttle was a small living area, what looked like a sleep pod or possibly a space suit decontamination and storage tank. There were some amenities like a corner table, shelves and other machines, and a door on the other side that must lead to an emergency seating area. This was less a escape pod and more a tiny private shuttle.
There was one glaring omission, branding. Companies liked to put their label on everything, military vessels like to put instructions and restrictions on everything, even private ships were company made and had some kind of sponsoring. The ration packs had food labels but there were no logos or trademarks.
Cups and empty bags of rations strewn on the floor along with other objects he was sure could be utensils or other things. He ran his hand over the counter top and a thin layer of dust fell to the floor and coated his gloved fingertips. He didn’t attempt to take off his helmet even though his sensors said there was breathable air. If there was some kind of contamination. He used a directional maneuvering jet to blast his glove free of dust. His whole sound would go into decontamination when he got back but that was normal. He found a data pad sitting on the counter and picked it up. It was similar to the ones he’d seen before but it looked thinner and more compact.
“So not much here, but it does look like someone was living here for some time. We got some cloths, empty ratpacks, doing a cursory look before I head through to what I guess is a cockpit?” He went through and described the inner room, recording everything, and then move to the inner door. Touching the door control the inner door opened and something fell out and landed agianst his foot.
Looking down he saw a helmet roll across the floor and a body leaning out the doorway as it slowly fell to the floor having been propped up by the closed door.
The inhabitant of the suit was dead, mumified by sitting so long. There were bottles strewn inside the cockpit and two bed like structures that looked almost like the cryogentics beds on board the ship. One of the bed was open and looked to have been partially dismantled. The other bed was fogged over and looked as though it had been worked on.
Roger took a deep breath and stepped over the dead body and moved towards the bed. “Maybe we have a survivor here.” He looked down at the mummy and didn’t see a name tag on the suit. It it was an emergency suit then it wouldn’t have a label he realized.
He ran a gloved hand over the glass of the end of the bed, he saw nothing.
The room was dark save for the light coming from the bed and his suit.
“It’s empty, I wonder if he was working on it cause his broke? Or...” He walked around to the far side and he stopped just as he saw what lay on the other side of the seemingly working bed.
“Crew of two. I wonder if this one was trying to fix one of these for the other?”
The other mummy was out of a suit and from the minimal cloths he could presume it had been female. The state of decay was great, very little flesh left, he was glad he hadn’t attempted to take off his suit.
He found a small control panel and brought up the small pods systems. The entire management data system had been purged. He’d connected his data pad to the console, he could access the coding view but he was unable to get into any file systems. Someone had written some basic coding the reprogrammed the entire ship from the ground up. He looked at the programming and for some reason he could have sworn he’d seen this programming code before. It was basic but his strengths didn’t gear towards coding. Access to the systems required a hand print, so he wasn’t going to activate anything.
“Shit, well will have to figure something out, later. I’ll bag and tag the two bodies here and then find out where they spliced into the ship and get an idea of what we need.” He pulled the mummified body of the suited crew member into the main part of the ship and dropped a sheet down near the other. Rolling the body over he used the blanket to maneuver the body into the main section next to the other body.
He spent the next thirty minutes checking the inside for any overtly modified wiring sections.
“Ok, so all the hook up s must be outside the ship.”
After going back outside the ship he circled the shuttle and realized the impact wasn’t as bad as he first thought. There had been a decent impact but his ship was meant to take harder hits than this. It didn’t make any sense. It was almost as if his ship had to have stopped and the other ship’s momentum smacked it into the Corsair, which wasn’t possible.
The Corsairs Ion drive was running, and they were at the estimated acceleration. He’d checked the readings and it had said everything was nominal.
He found where the crew had spliced into the power systems, it was a very decent splice. This could be fixed in an hour, structural integrity wasn’t an issue but the shuttle could be jettisoned in another two to ten hours depending.
Back inside he stepped over the two bodies and looked at them side by side. “Who were you?”
He knelt down near the suited mummy and inspected the suit a little closer. It was almost identical to the ones they used on the Corsair. “These suits aren’t specific to the UEF or TC but there are always labels. Let’s see.”
Twisting the wrist strap counter clockwise he heard the clasp detach. He removed the glove from the right hand. Along the metal clasp was a serial number and he recorded it.
Roger stared down at the empty clove hold and felt a cold chill run down his back.
“That’s not possible.” He positioned the lights from his suit to better illuminate the inside of the glove.
The light revealed a hand inked lettering on the inside. At first glance it looked like a jaggedly drawn R, but Roger knew exactly what it was.
An Elder Futhark Rune.
He’d studied Celtic and Norse mythology growing up due to his heritage. His grandfather had been a professor of history and had told him that he was named Roger because his name began and ended in a letter similar to the specific rune that dealt with travel, most importantly how difficult it was for a horse. So not only was it meant to express the toil of a journey but also a blessing for a swift one.
It was the mark that he’d written on the inside of his right glove, the one that Spencer had reconstituted.
He looked at the mummy and reached into his pack and pulled out a small vile. With a small scalpel he removed a fleck of skin and put it into the vile and stuffed it into his pack.
Outside the shuttle he made his way back to the walkway and reconnected with Spencer and Carol.
“Carol?” He checked the communications and moved further down the path till the crackling stopped.
“I’m here, what did you find?” Her voice came through crystal clear.
“Oh, you’re not going to believe this.”
“All readings show your heart rate is slightly elevated, are you alright?”
“Yeah Spencer, we might need Sully after all.”
“Why do you say that, what was on that shuttle?”
“I’m not sure, but I think we might be dealing with some kind of Hahn intervention. I don’t know how, I have to get Carol to run some tests but I think one of the bodies I found was a clone.”
“One of the bodies?” Carol asked, the octives raised slightly.
“Two crew, both long dead, possibly ten years or so, maybe more. We need a dna check, and I can’t run that with my rig.”
“Why do you think they’re clones?”
“Cause one of them put a mark on the inside of their glove, it’s the same one I use. I think one of those is a clone of me.” His voice caught in his throat. This means the Hahn had his biological data.
“Spencer, prep for decontamination and confinement till Sully wakes.”
“I hardly think that’s necessary.” Spencer said but Roger cut him off.
“Spencer, if they have my data who’s to say I’m who I am, if I was a clone I wouldn’t even know it.”
“Cloning leaves genetic markers Roger.” Carol admonished him. “Spencer would know when you did a check up, don’t be stupid. Get back inside and let’s wait for the others to wake up.
Roger felt suddenly very foolish and let out a breath. “This is kinda freaky, sorry.”
“Completely undrestandable, you didn’t happen to find a digital clone of myself onboard in the ships systems did you?” Spencer asked.
Roger laughed. “No, someone wiped the system and rewrote the code. I was going to get Carol to hack in, unless we unfreeze everyone.”
“Cedric would be better at that but I can give it a go first.” Carol pointed out.
“One hour and two minutes remaining till the Captain Davenport and Security Officer Sullivan wake.
“Good. I need to go over the footage again. Spencer I’m sending you a full copy of everything.”
“Acknowledged, downloading files.”