Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Land Leave 10

Simulated view of a black-hole

The continuing story:

Land Leave 10:

Land Leave 10:

“That was blatant disregard for chain of command with all due respect sir,” Sorensen was bewildered by the captain's actions. The captain was one to rarely run from a fight, and he had run from two in as many days.

“I'm sorry Sorensen. I didn't think it would spiral out of control like this. Something is going on over this cube. The Jovians are doing something drastic; shooting for an empire and total solar dominion even though they have insufficient firepower to outgun the whole AmU fleet. They were obviously aware of our approach,” the captain ran his hair through his hands, he had just witnessed the loss of many of his colleagues all of them great captains. He had deliberately abandoned the Mars stations, compromising huge amounts of classified materials as well as an entire planet's defense. The 40 million inhabitants of the Mars system were now exposed to attack.

James stormed into the room, “you killed them! You condemned them to death!”

“Calm down son. Some will die, but they are looking for us. Pillaging is a waste of time and ammo. They can't follow us to the Ares system and they will be waiting at the wormhole. I guarantee it.”

James calmed down a bit but he was still fuming, breathing heavily. A long silence pervaded the room. Bill burst into the room and apologized about James; he started guiding him out. At the door, James paused and turned to the captain, “what do we do now sir?”

“Figure out that cube. There's something about it; I don't know why but it seems that the Jovians have the upper hand. I don't know how they do, but something about that damn cube just might get us the better position.” The captain watched the two ensigns leave, “what's the status of the fleet that went through the hole with us?”

“Nine ships sir, all of them with functional fusion cores; most have severely compromised shielding systems. Weapons appear to be largely functional if not low on conventional ammo. Air-force is at minimal damage, they can mobilize and fly in a dog-fight if need be. My best guess against the fleet we saw today, we could easily punch a hole to the main AmU fleet if necessary,” conjectured Sorensen.

“Draw up some strategies, we don't break through the hole again until we know something about that cube. I want contingencies and all ships making necessary repairs now. Any other information about our Jovian infiltrators?”

“None sir, we are investigating an unauthorized transmission that was sent on an unused channel back in the Oort cloud, but it could have been a homesick ensign for all we know,” Sorensen wasn't hopeful that the security breach would be that easy to discover.

“Follow up and let me know. And keep an eye on the progress of that cube.”

James and Bill suited up to join the doctors in the bay. They were taking a close look at the corner with the line through it. Upon closer inspection the cube had some form of writing on it, a faint script that seemed to shimmer in the light. The writing wasn't well defined, nor was it what could be traditionally interpreted as writing. It was more a series of grooves arranged in an orderly pattern. Bill approached the writing and looked at it closely. He instinctively reached out to touch the writing. The field on the cube pushed his hand back, but he slid through. He broke the field and touched a groove. The cube shook, James became keenly aware of how tight the space in the bay was. He was suddenly very nervous about the cube swinging open and crushing him.

“Uh guys,” James tried to hold back his worry.

“It's ok, it'll be fine,” Bill felt calm. The cube started to disintegrate until the opening was the about 10 meters high. A faint light illuminated the inside and Bill stepped into it.

“Wait, are we recording this?” Dr. Kelvin's jaw had snapped shut and she suppressed her awe.

The four entered the cube cautiously. Bacchi looked at the walls and observed that there was writing everywhere. As he looked around, he noticed that there were squares about a meter in length that denoted grooved areas where there was no writing. It looked like something fit there, like pieces were missing. “It looks like something was here, what do you think it was?” Bacchi seemed antsy.

“Don't know, can you see anything down there James?” Kelvin motioned to James who had wandered a great deal further in.

“Nothing, writing everywhere though. I can't see very far though, it's like there's a haze in here.”

“It's helium and nitrogen. There is a ton of it in here.” Kelvin was looking at her monitors, “someone shine their light up.”

Bill did so and caught a glimmer of a large structure above him. Like the outer cube, it seemed to be almost featureless. The four explored the interior for another hour, trying hard to decipher any bits of information. What they found was almost nothing, without any way of deciphering the writing, they were largely stuck. They recorded what they could and went back for a break. At the computer terminal, they dropped off their recordings and turned the deciphering over to the organic computers. They sat and sipped coffee.

“It's definitely not full of political dissidents. I bet it's a compact spaceship built by an alien civilization. It lost power and got stuck in the Oort cloud.” Bill sounded practical and distant.

“Probable, we need to get some materials samples in, I think this thing is very old. So old that it does pre-date the solar system.” Bacchi sounded optimistic, hitting the jackpot on a pre-solar alien civilization would be incredible.

Bill thought about the statement as if from another world, “why do you think it's so old? I mean, it could be recent even. The fact is that it's 'alien' technology, its age is indeterminate and its function moreso.”

“It better be worth something. The Eve has lost 17 crewmen and sustained lots of damage for an empty cube,” James let the words bounce sarcastically from his lips. He jabbed Bill in the side, “wake up man, we gotta solve this Hardy Boys mystery.”

“An empty cube,” the thought stirred an energy inside of Bill, “it's useless. It doesn't fix things, it doesn't do anything. We don't even know what it's made of!” Bill was starting to rise, he could feel his frustration from the fights and losses taken in the last few days build up, “what the hell are we fighting for? It's a big cube with indecipherable writing.” Bill stood up out of his seat, spilling his coffee, “it's all so meaningless!” He stormed out of the room.

James, Kelvin, and Bacchi looked at each other. James stood up and ran out the door to catch up with Bill. “Bill, wait up.”

Bill stopped in the hallway, turned to James. Bill's face was red and his eyes were puffy. “I just don't get it. What the hell? We've been fighting and running forever and the big reveal is nothing. Just some grooves and bumps on some enigmatic wall. How do we justify that? So many people have died because the East Io Company thinks there is some weapon in this giant pre-historic cube. What kind of distorted world are we living in.” Bill smashed his fist into the wall, breaking a panel. He burst into tears and collapsed on the ground.

“I could have been a dad.” James stared at the wall.

“What?” Bill asked.

“The Turkish woman I hit in the Bazaar. She had an abortion. It was mine. I didn't love her. But I would have loved that kid. I would have had a kid; I could have been something to someone, not just a political pawn crawling through the ranks.” James sat in the hallway next to Bill, “I don't have anything against abortions, but she kept it from me. All of it.” The two sat in silence together, thinking on it all.

“Maybe there is no reason to it, maybe we just do the best we can with what we're given. I'm sorry about all that.” Bill spoke slowly.

“Thanks. What do we do now?” James felt vulnerable and lost.

“Keep working I suppose.”

“Keep working.” James let the words play in his head.