The eight of them then made their way to the same computer where the first four had stopped to turn around. That hall remained the only powered one at that point in time, yet Darrick, Elsie, Olsein and Savath were able to see the marvel of its construction for the first time, and experience the intuition of the one independent computer.
“Shit, that’s something,” said Savath, “The thing just pieced together Behraanese from us talking it for a few minutes!”
“The people who built this vessel were nothing if not very intuitive, themselves,” said Grace, “from what I gather, the vessel was constructed by a number of races. Oasiians, T’pauzi, Noregaans, Behraanese, Khrynthoss, Kelviki and—I think Terraan. I may be misreading that.”
“Noregaans? Really?” said Elsie aloud, “I suppose I’d have to see more of the ship to see how.”
“Our resident Khrynthoss isn’t here to vouch for his race,” said Laura.
“I definitely get Oasiic,” said Rose, “the structure itself is Oasiic in its shape. Most capital ships were similar to one another. The same bridge section, the same stem below the body, the same antenna array, the same configuration for docking, and the same wing config, just more of them. Six wings, altogether. Looks like whatever organization built this thing didn’t skimp out on the details. But here’s something I didn’t see before.”
“Manufacturing,” said Grace, “I know. This ship can manufacture buildings. Fleets of ships, if it had the resources.”
“No Behraanese ship can do that,” Olsein scratched his chin, “but I bet if they could, they would.”
“Well,” said Laura slowly, tonguing at the words as she had built a habit to, “I want you all to realize, if you don’t by now, that what we do here, now? Changes everything. Nothing will be the same after today. Not here. Not anywhere. I’m saying this, and I don’t know the half of what this ship can do.”
“With—how many—two million people,” Janeth began, “by waking them, we will essentially be bringing an extinct civilization back from the dead. After...millennia.”
The crew was largely silent for a moment.
“Strange,” said Grace, “the computer says it will be able to transfer the power from our battery to the sections we enter, all the way to core. But it’s asking for my permission to do so.”
“Will it power elevators or lifts?” asked Laura.
Grace shook her head, “there isn’t enough power for anything mechanical. Lighting, interfaces like this one. Little else.”
“It’ll do,” Laura nodded.
“Then lead on,” said Grace, “I should be able to guide us all the way there.”
“Where to first?” asked Laura.
“Down to the end of the hall, and then right,” said Grace, already beginning to walk in the direction needed.
“Better off you lead us then,” said Laura, “since the ship’s talking to you anyway. We’ll keep you covered.”
Grace simply nodded and began to look up as she walked, gently running her hand on the smooth, glossy walls as she looked about. There was almost a familiarity to her reaction to the vessel, as if she knew this ship already. Laura felt that deep connection. She felt a part of Grace that had come alive, that could not be detected before.
She then turned half an eye to Rose and Darrick, who instead of holding their plasmars, held each other’s hands as they walked down the hall.
She paid it no mind.
“Bout damn time,” said Savath, “you two been playing stupid since Elsie and I got on board.”
“I can still squash you,” said Rose.
“Shutting right up, miss,” Savath straightened up.
As Grace led on, halls lit up ahead, as the ones behind them went out. Interfaces came alive, showed the way, then died again.
“These computers are all separate,” said Grace, “it is as if they all have personalities of their own. And, idiosyncrasies at that.”
“Don’t they have a voice or something?” asked Darrick, “from the few intuitive computers I’ve met, they all have voices.”
“Too much power,” said Grace, “even doing this, we have just an hour.”
“Then can we pick up the pace?” asked Laura.
“Gladly,” said Grace as she feathered along more quickly.
One thing Rose noticed as they travelled from hall to hall, and a staircase, was that no section was in any worse shape than the next. The whole of the ship had been preserved thus far.
Darrick’s eyes once caught something below the floor, almost as if it was translucent. He seemed to see multitudes of cabling of some kind, though he was unable to discern what sort or for what purpose.
“I’ve never felt so alive,” said Olsein, “I never thought I’d see this ship. Not in my lifetime. Not with my own eyes.”
“I hoped I would never have to again,” said Janeth, “I hoped all of this would not become a necessity.”
“I gave you the idea,” said Rose.
“And who gave you the idea?” asked Janeth, “That part never did come up back in Nywan. It is unlike you to think one thing one moment, and then have a wholly different opinion. Who, Rose? Who told you?”
“A—Cyan,” said Rose hesitantly.
“You know him?”
“Know him?” the Admiral nearly laughed, then shouted loudly, “know him!? That helpful gentleman who pointed you in this direction, was the Imperator! Do you understand?”
Laura stopped in her tracks, her heart skipping a beat as she swivelled about, “What!?”
“You could not have told us this sooner!?” Janeth’s fury burned through her sapphire eyes, “what else did he say!?”
“The answer, Roselii!”
“He said—he said to seek him out in Pillars.”
“Good thing that never happened,” Janeth said suddenly, crossing her arms, “it didn’t, did it?”
“Alvoa did say the Imperator sent his regards,” said Rose shakily, “when we were being held for execution. But I never made the connection. Most of us don’t know him by name or anything, you know. So cut me some slack! I didn’t know!”
“Enough,” said Laura.
“You could be the end of us!” Janeth continued.
“Enough!” Laura’s voice boomed, echoing down the halls.
The two women stopped.
“Sort it out some other time. Not while the battery’s dying. And especially not now that Behraan might know we’re here.”
“Right,” said Janeth, the burning fury in her eyes slowly rescinding, “I apologize. Let us make haste.”
“Kay,” Rose said, still disgruntled.
Nearly half an hour later, Grace led the crew to a single two-doored frame, and a door that was strikingly similar to the one between Spaceport Eighty-one and the first hall.
“I cannot open this,” said Grace.
“Allow me,” said Janeth, as she once again pried the door open. This time the effort seemed greater, though she wasn’t quite at the limit of her strength yet.
The room was completely pitch black, save for what light entered the room. Several control consoles lined the room at chest-level, with chairs which were bolted to the floor, adjustable and easy to sit on and quickly leave.
Then, the room lit up like all the rest before it. More consoles became apparent, though the far wall was strictly glass.
That glass, however, became alive with screens embedded within it.
Whatever room laid behind it was completely dark. The light did not reach anything visible.
“This is a core control room,” said Grace, “the closest one out of ten.”
“Can we light the room on the other side?” asked Laura as she stepped into the room.
“Unlikely,” said Grace, quickly moving to the glass window console and sifting through information, “though if we had additional power packs—at least a single gigawatt altogether—we should be able to start the core.”
“Here,” said Olsein as he revealed and held up one of the two old cores Maxis sold them to power the Skyreign, “this should do it.”
“We only need it for about a minute,” said Grace, “if I recall, that core runs at twenty-five megawatt-hours. A capacitor in the starter mechanism will hold the charge until a gigawatt is reached.”
“I was wondering when you were going to tell me about taking one of our ship’s power sources with you,” said Laura, if only minorly displeased.
“When I thought we might need it,” Olsein winked back.
“Here’s the panel,” Grace reached under the console to the left, not even looking, pulling the panel open and placing it to the side, “should be as simple for you as before.”
“Sure,” Rose grabbed the hefty core.
Moments later, the deed was done. Rose pulled herself out from under the console and stood, “I’d dust myself off, but this ship is cleaner than a Kelviki hospital.”
“I will take that for a compliment to my race,” said Grace, “though do keep in mind, the Kelviki did play a part in building this ship. Perhaps they are what make this ship so sacred as believed.”
A minute had elapsed. Silence.
“So why isn’t anything happening?” asked Laura.
With all eight in the control room, it felt only somewhat crowded. Olsein and Savath stood near the door, to the hall that was then dark.
“Well,” said Grace as she stood back and looked out the window into the black, “are we ready?”
Laura sighed, standing next to Grace, “ready.”
“Terraniia,” said Grace aloud in a commanding manner, “unlock the perpetual reactor, helices one through three in that order.”
The whole of the floor began to shudder, as the room was flooded with the low-rumbling of metal pieces which began to move. The shuddering slowly intensified, feeling like a minor earthquake.
“Is this normal?” asked Laura, her teeth chattering where she stood.
“I don’t know,” said Grace, raising her voice to overcome the noise of everything vibrating.
The glass console began to display a top-down view of the status of the three helices, and several mechanisms around them and at their ends.
The shuddering then stopped, and the whole of the room lit up. Within the room, a massive cylinder running the length of the ship, were three helices. They were so colossal, that if they were stretched out, they would have spanned many kilometres for each coil. Yet none could seem to see any seams. It was as if they were one solid piece.
The helices remained still.
“Start them,” said Grace aloud.
Barely visible, only the innermost helix began to spin about the shaft that spanned from end to end of the room.
“Helix one is at a hundred revs, and picking up,” Rose announced.
“Just a few more seconds,” said Grace quietly.
The others, Laura included, simply watched, enthralled by the events taking place.
“two-hundred. Three. Four, five—one thousand,” Rose continued.
“Remove power from our core,” said Grace, “it is generating its own power now.”
“Two thousand. Three. Fo--” Rose stopped to recount the RPM meter, “ten thousand!”
Still, very little could be heard, just a distant, low-pitched hum.
Then, the intermediate helix started to turn, in the opposite direction. At that point, the hall lit up.
“Helix one at twenty-thousand. Helix two at just a hundred. Two. Three.”
A much more pronounced whining, flickering noise flooded the room. That whining was then joined with a similarly-pronounced higher tone and tempo, nearly harmonious.
“It’s beautiful,” said Grace, “it is as if they are singing.”
“Helix one at forty thousand. Two at ten. Twenty.”
Then the ship rumbled and shuddered again, far more pronounced than even initially.
The largest outer core begun to spin, counter to the intermediate one. A much lower whir bellowed from within the chamber.
“Helix three at fifty. One hundred. Two. One is at sixty thousand! Two is at forty thousand! Great Kabaiila....”
The sound became nearly deafening from the three helices.
“Power the dampening field around the core chamber,” said Grace aloud.
The shuddering disappeared. The sound was only less thunderous and still just as beautiful.
“Is that—light?” asked Laura silently.
“Helix one is alight! RPM, ninety thousand! Two is at sixty! Three is at ten!”
Still, the whirring intensified at the three tones, as the core chamber became brighter and brighter, a bluish white light emanating from the inner core.
At that point, the helices didn’t look anything like helices, just blurs of metal and light.
The intermediate core then became luminescent, nearly blinding those looking upon it.
“Helix two alight! Helix one holding at RPM 111,111. Odd number to stop at...”
“Power output?” asked Grace.
“Three point six-five terawatt hours right now!” Rose shouted, “unbelievable!”
“That’s enough to power every city on Behraan for a thousand years,” said Elsie, barely able to speak above a whisper.
Then, the final helix came alight, which filled the room with such brilliant light that the computer had to quickly adjust to screen away some of the light coming through the glass.
The three helices then found their final tune, singing harmoniously together with such a voice that indeed the ship around it became alive, and that those witnessing the song felt so much more alive than they already were.
“Helix two holding at RPM 99,999. Three, at 77,777. Potential output: fifteen Terawatts,” said Rose, as the song began to subside to a point where it could still be heard, but could also be ignored if one wished.
“Everything is coming alive,” said Grace, her eyes closed and a tear running down from one of her eyes, “I can feel it. It feels like it is waking up after a deep slumber.”
Laura looked to Grace, then back to the core, “You had best get to the bridge.”
“Interesting,” Grace tilted an ear up, “now that internal systems are alive, I may be taken directly to the bridge. But only if accompanied by one Jiinahra Sarethael.”
“It keeps calling me that,” Janeth shook her head, “but that would save us some time. Very well--”
Before she could say another word, both she and Grace disappeared, leaving just the sound of the air rushing in the space they just left.
Laura felt a tug from the moving air, stumbling, “what on Bentor?”
“Um,” Rose stood straight and looked about, confused, “what just happened?”
“Guess they took a trip to the bridge,” said Olsein.
“Well shit,” said Savath, “what now?”
<Now, just relax,> said Janeth over an unseen intercom, though her face appeared on several consoles and her voice was as clear as though as she was there, <We will find out how to connect Grace and then contact you again. But do not leave the room or vicinity. I imagine the crew will awaken shortly after Grace is connected.>
“Know what I hate?” said Olsein aloud.
“Everyone,” Savath retorted.
“Yeah, that—and having nothing to do.”
“That’s my favourite thing,” said Darrick as he sat at one of the chairs and stretched out, “Captain says we wait. I’m fine with that.”