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SPACEHOUNDS Chapter 1


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Heart pounding in her ears, Karen blinked a few times until the comforting background noise of her crewmates ended with the gravity kicking back in, jumpstarting her own train of thought as well. First order of business? A surge of sheer euphoria at the fact she wasn't dead or spagettified or stuck in a time-dilated vortex of doom after they pressed the ludicrous speed button.

 

"Yes! Not dead! I love you, you brilliant idiots!" she all but crowed over the coms, muscle memory kicking in as she unhooked herself from the wall and checked that all her bits were apparently undamaged. Check, check, and... Check. If there was anything wrong with her, she get it checked out with Carrie later

 

Second order of business? The brilliant grin of survival waned as she took in the strange, crowded starfield out the porthole. That... was concerning. Took a lot to change the night sky what you saw in the night sky far as she knew. She coughed to clear her throat, "Right. Sorry about that. Hope you recorded the view out the porthole because I'm pretty sure we aren't anywhere near where we started before you pushed the big red button. I've got equipment to check on..."

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As systems rebooted from standby Yseult mad her way aft to her drive compartment where she could access the GID directly.

Back on the flight deck, Rachel brought the reactor up to 75% power and began turning on the subsystems slowly watching for failures and non-functioning systems. One by one they came up, including sensors and the outside cameras, suddenly everyone in the cabin could see on their screens what Karen below was seeing with her eyes out the cargo port.

A field of stars stretching across the visible sky like a river, wider and brighter than anything any of them had ever see before, made even more so by the complete lack of stars anywhere else around them.

“That…is…not good, guys,” Rachel said her eyes glued to the images on her screen as she manipulated the cameras to look around.

 

Yseult ran her diagnostics completely unaware of what the rest of the crew were seeing. Once the program was  done and the data showed no damage, she re-initiated the drive. The machine responded immediately and that brought a smile to the woman’s lips, a smile which almost immediately turned upside down. The field was extremely weak and growing at only a fraction of what it should have, almost as if there were no gravity fields to draw from…

 

Karen inspected the cargo and the ship turned breakers back on and replaced a few blown fuses from power surges but found no real damage. She headed back to the flight deck stopping to check on the two passengers who were in the passenger cabin. Carrie stood and went to Karen

“Karen are we alright? Where are we? Mr Todd says that this is not any sky we can see from our solar system.”

Karen looked at the engineer who was peering out of the porthole while talking quietly to his computer.

 

Spoiler

available with answers to questions

 

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"The hell did we do, go beyond the Outer Rim?"  It was an old reference from something long before his time, but his cousin had been into it, and shared that interest.   He smiled faintly, knowing the others wouldn't get it, but all the same.
 

He turned to the crew.  "Well we're intact, with bumps and bruises at worst, and the Polaris is intact, so we've got that going for us.  Like everyone else, I don't recognize that sky,   We need to find out where we are, and how we're going to get home."
 

"First off, Rachel, are we still moving, and if so at what speed and heading?  If we're still heading away from the stars, then we need to bring the ship to a halt if we're not actually heading to anything."
 

"Second, Everyone check you watches, and clocks.  I want an idea of how much time has actually elapsed, because looking at my watch, I'm getting that we spent DAYS at speed, and on my dataslate here, only minutes."   
 

He thought for a moment and input what he thought was a simple request into the shipboard computer, Determining relative location and time, based on the outside conditions, and the estimated time for the computation came back not in seconds, but hours.   "I also want some idea on the distance we've traveled, but I'm aware that an answer to that may take longer than normal."

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5 hours ago, Spacehound Director said:

Karen inspected the cargo and the ship turned breakers back on and replaced a few blown fuses from power surges but found no real damage. She headed back to the flight deck stopping to check on the two passengers who were in the passenger cabin. Carrie stood and went to Karen

“Karen are we alright? Where are we? Mr Todd says that this is not any sky we can see from our solar system.”

Karen looked at the engineer who was peering out of the porthole while talking quietly to his computer.

 

  Reveal hidden contents

available with answers to questions

 

 

Seeing that Todd was in his own little world, the former Marine gave a little laugh and sat down, gesturing for Carrie to do the same. Only after the other blonde did so did she answer her questions.

 

"Don't know where we are, but considering we went from riding a blackhole about to explode the heart of civilization to being alive and well and undamaged far as I can tell..? We're good. We're great. I've been in worse situations with less capable people backing me up, Carrie," Karen answered with zero doubt and a wave at Todd's visible pondering as an example, "Could be bad if they can't figure out a answer right away, but I'm going to enjoy the win for what it is and worry about the consequences tomorrow. I've done my job for now. I'm assuming everyone came through in one piece by the fact you have time to worry..?"

 

Karen chuckled, smile bright and blue eyes twinkling, a slight smudge of grease marring one cheek. Her officers in the Corp had drilled into her the principle that if people saw you worrying, they'd start worrying and you'd worry about worrying them and nothing would get done and... Screw that. Not on her watch.

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Rachel spent some time peering at her instruments, then brought up a window to show the telescopic array's feed as she adjusted it. Frowned. Adjusted it again.

 

"You are gonna hafta give me a minute for all of that, captain," she murmured, most of her attention still on the control panel and its information streams. "In fact...probably at least two."

 

She leaned over to touch the intercom button and signal Engineering. "Yseult? Do you have ETA on the G...oh, nevermind. I see it coming up now. Thanks!"

 

Finally the navigator turned her chair so she could look over at Ayato. "I'm gonna start with the very good, then kind of...alternate, good bad good bad. So. First the very good. We're alive!" She pumped her fist and spun in her chair once. "That is...nothing short of amazing, considering what probably happened here. Anything that happens now is just kind of...frosting on the cake of our lives."

 

Ayato stared flatly at her. "And the bad?"

 

Eisley sighed. "Our current position and velocity are...unknown at the moment. Buuuut that leads right into the next good! I'm having the telescopes look for Andromeda so we can try to pick out a Cepheid variable or two. From that we can triangulate to get our displacement from Earth's solar system. We'll also be able to find closer reference points and hopefully calculate our speed from parallax, which will give us a more precise idea of what happened."

 

This time Ayato was silent, waiting.

 

"Annnnd...okay, I don't know exactly where we are, but direct observation tells us where we're not." She took a deep breath. "Inside the galaxy." Immediately she waved a hand, trying to forestall the captain's reaction. "But don't panic! We DO have fusion rockets, and we're fully fueled. That's obviously not going to get us...that far, compared to where we are, but it's something."

 

"How is that possible?" he wanted to know.

 

Rachel shook her head. "I won't know for sure until we get more data about where we are and how fast we got here, but...it's theoretically possible for us to have traveled thousands of light years. The black hole was accelerating to significant fractions of the speed of light. At those speeds relativistic time dilation could have kicked in. Which means that we could have been dragged by that thing for years...but only experienced a few minutes subjectively. Now...the time dilation required to change thousands of light years to a timeframe we could not only survive but barely notice..." She spread her hands. "That's still a mystery to me. I have a lot of math to do. Off the cuff, I feel like we'd have to have been going unrealistically fast, even considering the effects of a black hole nearby. But until I plug some numbers in..."

 

She shrugged. "Until then, I'm just guessing." Rachel paused then, and finally got to the last shoe. "If I'm right about all this though," she says gently, "then outside our accelerated frame of reference, thousands of years will have gone by. There's no getting around that. We're on our own now."

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"And for some time, I am thinking," Yseult added over the intercomm, trying not to have a full-blown panic attack, as she studied the meagre strength and growth of the impeller fields. "Us, we are not having much in the way of any gravity wells for the impeller fields to be drawing upon. We are going to be needing to be judicious in the use of the fusion rockets, yes?"

 

Yseult understood the math in regards to relativistic speed and time. It was just not something she had had to concern herself with overmuch when she was earthbound in R&D. Now, being displaced so far in distance and time from her family, potentially with no way back, Yseult was distressed nearly to the point of collapse. Only focusing on the more limited discrepancy Ayato mentioned with his time pieces keep Yseult working, striving to believe there was a way to return home without generations, centuries having passed.

 

"The drive, it is at least in full working order, that I am seeing, though I would like to make a visual inspection when possible, to make sure there isn't any wear or tear that the diagnostics, they are missing," Yseult said, a faint shakiness to her accented tone despite trying to reclaim her reserve.

 

Following Ayato's comment, Yseult began examining her own various time pieces, on her personal comm-unit, her diagnostic programs, and integrated into the GID itself. While relativism hadn't been a great concern to her, personally, it hadn't been disregarded concerning spaceflight and those who engaged in it frequently.

 

 

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Ayato Sat back as Rachel tackled her problems behind him and Yseult, her’s, back in the drive compartment. He looked over at Arjun who was staring at his own screens, his hands on the flight controls, fingers tapping nervously. Ayato reached over and touched his arm gently, Arjun didn’t react for a few seconds just rolled his lips then without turning his head, whispered, “We will never get enough thrust if we are moving away from home. If we are moving at the speeds we were before without the GID we can’t slow down, we will barely be able to alter our course. We are fucked.”

“Keep it together Arjun,” Ayato, glanced back at  Rachel who hadn’t seem to have heard the co-pilot, “wait for all the facts we will figure something out.

 

The two scientists  continued doing their work at their stations while Karen was sitting with Carrie in the passenger lounge, Mr Todd still sitting by the port apparently making observations, absentmindedly whispering to himself and his computer, oblivious to the two women.

Carrie sat close to Karen, who had removed her helmet and set it aside. The medical technician was using her own computer to do what analysis she could. “No one is injured, and I’m not sure but I don’t think we were unconscious.”

“We were out for hours at least,” said Karen with a little laugh as punctuation.

“I know, but there is a difference between unconscious and asleep.”  She looks into the older woman’s eyes then glances down at her still armored form, then she reached out and ran her hand down Karen’s arm. Her face broke into a grin, “This suit it monitors your bio-signs doesn’t it?”

“Yeah…”

Carrie turned sideways facing her and took her computer plate and held it toward Karen. “If it recorded your life signs while we were out we can get and idea of what happened to us at physically. Can you download the reading to my plate?”

Karen smiled widely, “I sure can.”

 

“Our velocity has dropped considerably from what I estimated it to have been,” Rachels voice startled both pilots, who turned back and looked at her as she swiveled her chair toward them. “I estimate we were at close to .80c when we did our power up, and with what observations I can make with the cameras and some guide stars in the cluster out there, we are probably at around .045c give or take 14%. That is a massive loss of velocity that I cannot explain. The computer is crunching the numbers to refine that but really, we need to mount the external telescope to get any better data. That might also help us identify some of those stars.

At just that moment Karens voice came over the intercom. “Skipper, Ms. Dawes has some interest information about what happened to us while we were out, you know medically.”

Ayato looked around, “Alright chief, we’ll all meet up in the lounge and confer. By the way did your suit record what was going on outside from the cargo porthole?”

“Ah let me check… just a sec… Yeah it did … whoa,” Karen whistled, “I have a hundred and eighty-six hours recorded.”

Ayato looked around at his two crew members then rose from his seat, “Download that to the ship Chief we will be back there in a minute. He switched channels, “Yseult, if you’re not in the middle of something meet us in the passenger lounge please.”

 

No one spoke. Not when the recordings from Karen’s suit showed the black hole suddenly expand to engulf the Polaris, swallowing the tiny ship.  Not when the recording showed the outside of the port a void of almost nothing except a thin fog or mist empty and unmoving except for the sudden wisps of fluidic streams like thin oily water which occasionally rushed by the porthole. They fast forwarded through must of the unchanging view until it did change. Something began to grow in the porthole until it filled the view, another hole into nothing, then the space they now found themselves filled the recording.

Carrie Dawes was the first to speak after the captain stopped the playback. “According to the timestamps,  Karen, I mean Chief McKenna,” Carrie corrected herself. “The chief, and I assume the rest of us as well, lost consciousness at the exact same time the ship passed into whatever that was. During that time, we were in what I can best describe as a state of induced coma. From the readings her suit recorded Chief McKenna’s vital signs where at a near standstill. Her heart rate dropped to one every seventy-eight seconds, respiration; one ever 4 minutes or so. Every physical process slowed to this scale. At my observations since we woke indicate that the rest of us were the same with individual variances most likely.

The chiefs, life processes began to speed up to their normal rate at the same time stamp we crossed out and took about ten minutes to return to near normal and we began waking up.”

 

Spoiler

you should have questions. i will have answers. get with me

 

 

 

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Huh. To think she had worn the armor into the lounge to save time just in case she needed to go back down again...

 

Karen had the biggest shit-eating grin at Carrie's little slip of the tongue. *Still had it*, even in a crisis! Ha. A thought crossed her brain and sparked a realization, a guess too certain for her to ignore.

 

"We'd probably be dead if not for that little slowdown while we were in the..," the blonde paused and looked at their resident French-Canadian genius, "Ah, Yseult tunnel-jump. Scientists still name things after themselves if they discover it, right? Anyway, someone, not something, *someone* wanted us to come out of that alive and fresh. I'll bet Big Bertha on it. Y'all manage to pinpoint us on the map yet so we can start seeing who and what's around?"

 

She let the mention of her beloved 36" adjustable wrench speak for her seriousness. Give her place to stand and a fire in her belly, Karen would *find* the lever she needed to move the world.

 

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"Well that explains some things."  finding out they'd been out for nearly eight days, and that they seemed to not be suffering any negative side effects was impressive and quite hard to understand.  It wasn't that it happened, he was thankful, as if it hadn't, well he knew a great deal about nutrition and if not for the reduction of their bodily functions, they'd be in much worse shape healthwise.  "If anyone is feeling poorly, or starts to, I want you to inform Miss Dawes, and myself."
 

He frowned.  "You mention individual variances, So you're saying that we weren't even all slowed at the same relative time.  It might be worth knowing just how long it was for each of us.  If we don't have a means of determining that, we'll go off the data we do have, that we were all out for 186 hours, during which our bodies slowed, and we survived, in this coma-like state.   Given that time frame, I know we had to have been traveling far faster than anyone ever has before.   Crazy as it sounds, we went faster than the speed of light."
 

That little revelation was something that should be impossible, an impossible barrier, broken.   "We Went faster than light, actually escaped the grip of a black hole, and have survived to tell the tale.  Now we just have to find a way home."
 

It wasn't so much an attempt at optimism, but his priority.  "With the resources we have we need to find a way back home.  Maybe that's a longshot, but given what we've already done, I'm inclined to believe it's absolutely possible.  What happened to us, the Data on the ship, it will turn the scientific community on its head.  First thing I want done after this, we'll reset all the clocks, so we at least know what time it is relatively.  We'll get back to at least a semblance of routine.   We need to get the sensors fully online, and scan where we are.  There should be a telescope in one of the storage lockers, so If we need to do a little work outside to mount it, I know we've got the right people for that.  We Find where exactly we are, and find if there's anything we can use to get us headed home, without using all our remaining resources."

"Now having said that, does anyone have anything they'd like to add, or report?"

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"Pardon me." The soft voice of Mr Todd startled everyone. He was still sitting at the port his computer sitting on the seat beside him now.

"Yes Mr Todd?"

The engineer adjusted his glasses on his nose, “I have been observing the stars and I believe that there is something out there close to us. Relatively speaking, of course.

You see as we have moved I have observed the occlusion of several of the distant stars.”

 

Ayato looked at his crew especially Rachel, it irked him that a passenger, a civilian, had discovered something and not one of them.

 

“WE need to get that Telescope mounted asap. Chief, Arjun get suited up and ready for an EVA. Yseult, we need the GID up and running I need you to find someway to get us moving again and figure out what the hell happened.” He turned to Rachel. “I need you in the control room to monitor the EVA from there, I’ll be suited up in the lock in case of an emergency. See if you can get anything with radar and Lidar on Mr Todd’s object.

Let’s get to work.”

 

Everyone moved.

Surprisingly everything went rather smoothly, if slow. The EVA would take 4-6 hours, Rachel with the help of Mr Todd retire to the bridge and while monitoring the EVA she takes mulply radar and Lidar readings and locates the object and begins compiling Data it will take several hours to get any answers.

 

Mean while in the Engineering compartment…

 

 

Yseult seemed more remote, her pale face drawn and wan, since they regained consciousness and trying to determine where they were and how they got there. They were all missing people from home, the distance between them almost unimaginable, Yseult didn't want to burden her crewmates with her own anxieties over her family, so she dug deep into the recorded data of the GID, its designed and hypothetical capabilities, the sensor data recorded and Rachel's interpretation of it, and the theoretical mathematics and physics to explain what happened.

 

The lovely French-Canadian woman was at it for hours and so many cups of coffee, there was a slight tremor to her hands, but finally, she stood up from her chair and stretched, knuckling her back with the audible pop of vertebrae cracking. An iota of hope sparked to life, dark eyes glimmered as she considered how they might potentially get back home, home without the eccentricities of time played by relativity. Back home to their families.

 

"Finalement! I have been doing the maths and the physics, me," Yseult informed Ayato via direct comm-link several hours after she'd told him she'd need some time to come up with anything substantial to report. "And looking at the Drive and Sensor data. This is being conjecture, to be sure, but so far, the maths, they are holding."

 

Using simple info-graphics sent from her personal computer and displayed on Ayato’s helmets HUD, Yseult tried to explain what she believed happened.

 

"Using the sudden burst of the impeller drive to remove us from the influence of the black hole, the singularity, this is not working. Rather, this energy, it is being absorbed by the singularity, and we were pulled in by the wake. The sudden influx of so much energy, it is causing the singularity to collapse, yes? And when it is collapsing, we are being... pushed to some other... place. Some other... space. Sub-space, hyper-space, whatever you are wishing to call it."

 

The holographic images portrayed a wire-frame tube or tunnel of orange light. At one end, there was a gridwork sphere of blue. The sphere shrunk and disappeared, while a new one of green swelled into being at the other end.

 

"Most of this is conjecture as I am not having the proofs, but from Karen's video, I am believing we were still moving through this, this sub-space, from our point of entry to a point of exit that was determined as soon as we entered this sub-space. When were are arriving at this second singularity, the Polaris, it was ejected, and then it is collapsing. This second singularity, it is only existing when we are entering the sub-space tunnel, and only existing so long as we are submerged in it, thus why it is collapsing when we are emerging."

 

There was the faintest curve to her lips, there was the potential of a solution, a potential, but not a promise. But it was something.

 

"If I am being able to make the maths work and run the simulations, we may be able to recreate the event, but in reverse. We may be able to go home."

 

Ayato pondered what he was seeing and what his engineer was saying, “So it was a wormhole?”

 

Yseult hesitated, “It does not, eh, perfectly fit the Einstein–Rosen bridge prediction,” she purposefully did not say wormhole, “I will need more time to do some more maths.”

Ayato nodded even though no one could see him as he was alone in the lower deck at the airlock. “It is a start. Good work Yseult, now make it better, please.”

 

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Meanwhile, Rachel was burning some midnight oil on the bridge, hogging the main computer's bandwidth for the telescopes imaging system and to crunch the numbers they brought in. Searching for standard candles in other galaxies when they were as far out of position from Earth as they were was really hard, but she'd made some progress. Enough variable stars that she could start the program to calculate their position, though more reference points would improve the speed and accuracy of the results.

 

More immediately though there was another issue. She'd found Mr. Todd's occluding object. Devoting three of the telescope apertures to the task of locating it and getting a more detailed look than 'blots out the stars behind it,' Rachel was able to pin it down. Then, with that data, she turned the LiDAR onto it...and was startled to receive a faint but intelligible return pulse. It really WAS close!

 

It took a couple more hours of work, refining the LiDAR contact, devising an algorithm to  scrub the noise from the signal, and shine the laser on it over and over again to try to resolve some detail.

 

When the detail finally came, she nearly fell over trying to get to the intercom fast enough.

 

"Captain," Rachel blurted. "Ayato! I need you on the bridge! Right now!"

 

.......

 

"...which brings me to this," Eisley said, briefing the crew after her report to the captain. She brought up the best of the images she'd managed to wring from the astrometrics unit.

 

https://media.discordapp.net/attachments/602566229118681109/685496035547545660/computer_image.jpg?width=619&height=465"This is a composite radar/lidar image of the object that Todd spotted behind us. It first appeared to be roughly oblong, like an asteroid or dwarf planet, approximately five hundred meters across on its long axis. However, as I got more and more optics exposure, and got the signal ratio up, details emerged. It consists of what looks like a flattened ring around a spherical core, supported by a pair of struts at the north and south poles of the sphere. There are...irregularities in its surface, the nature of which I can only guess at."

 

She took a deep breath. "Even so, the structure of this object is sufficiently complex that I think it's very unlikely to be naturally occurring. I believe it's artificial in origin."

 

Here Rachel paused, clearing her throat and letting everyone react. "Currently it's about .97 astronomical units away from us. The Polaris and it have the same heading, but we're moving faster than it. We can enter an intercept course just by slowing down. Based on the data, it's...been about an hour since we passed this thing. Just too small and distant to be spotted easily until it could get in the way of the stars behind us."

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"That is not a human construct."  He looked at Rachel, and closed his eyes.   "We're not explorers."   When he opened his eyes though, they narrowed.  "We didn't start that way at least.  I want to inspect this.  Doing so is better than continuing to coast along away from home."
 

He looked to Yesult and Karen.  "What will it take for us to decrease our velocity and plot an intercept course with this object?   Do we have the means to do so safely?"
 

They had supplies for a bit over a week, somewhat longer with hard rationing, but if they wanted to go home, he had a feeling it would take somewhat longer.  "When we get home, just imagine, the data on the black hole, and now this construct."   He was curious, and doing this would at least reduce the speed at which they were leaving the galaxy behind.

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"It shares characteristics of a black hole, but it was not a black hole," Yseult muttered in fluid French.

 

Yseult was far more interested in finding a way home rather than exploring a manufactured extraterrestrial structure. At first. Then she reconsidered. She had had the credit stolen for a technological advancement once already. If she could make a discovery here, there would be no way for Jakob Schwartz to lay claim to it, no matter the pull he had acquired or personal connections he could leverage. It was an unworthy thought, she knew it as soon as she had, but Yseult couldn't prevent a brief, suspicious narrowing of her dark eyes as they flicked around her crew mates .

 

Yseult may not have considered herself an explorer, but she was a scientist and engineer at heart. The idea of studying a truly alien artifact, and figuring out how it worked, and more, figuring out how to adapt it for the benefit of all - or at least many - did make her heart beat and mind buzz with the thrill of excited inquiry.

 

"The impeller fields, they are only drawing from the inherent gravitation of the universe, approximately 0.0025 gravities of thrust. It is constant, so the deceleration, it would build over time, though we will not be storing any energy for anything else in that time," Yseult said, making a few gestures and sending the numbers to Rachel to plot an intercept. "It is being safe, barring anything else unforeseen. If we are willing to use the rockets, the rate of deceleration, it can be increased, saving us time now, at the expense of the possible need for the rockets later. We will not be finding resupply out here, I am thinking."

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"We might get something from interstellar hydrogen," Rachel sighed, "But out here, we won't find much of that even. Yeah, if we can get anything from the impeller, that's a better idea. We need to sit on the fusion drive unless it's absolutely necessary."

 

She drummed her fingers on the panel. "Which means we have some time. We're going a full ten percent of c faster than it right now. Still, silver lining, if we want to go back to our galaxy anytime soon, we'll need to do that anyway. So it's genuinely on our way. And frankly, given our provisioning, we need a miracle to survive. Weird artificial structure in deep intergalactic space on the far end of a bizarre wormhole is a candidate for that. Maybe it had something to do with us coming out here."

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"Weirder things have happened," Karen chimed in, before she started counting off on her fingers, "Though we're definitely in outer limits of those things. Now, if we can match vectors *and* if no one's home over there *and* if it doesn't shoot us out of space, I can definitely jump over with a line and anchor us to it for others to follow. A lot of ifs, I know, but we're short convenient shuttle craft. Assuming something else doesn't work better."

 

She studied the image, frowning, "I swear though... One creepy crawly or killer robot drops out of an airduct, you're all racing me back to the ship. Nope. They've remade that plot way too many times for me to deal with it."   

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With a task defined the crew of the Polaris got to work. With judicious use of the thruster rockets and the GID in combination the pilots maneuvered the small ship onto and intercept vector. While the ship soared toward its target Rachel refined her images revealing a much more dramatic look at the vessel for assuredly that is what it was, they were heading for.

110519288.jpg.de849ff30c0b97ba60402963bb8d60f0.jpg

 

It took  almost a full week to close the distance to the gargantuan ship and during all that time the ship they approached gave no sign of noticing them. Indeed, they could detect no sign of life at all from the apparent ghost ship.

The Polaris closed the distance and the chief launched her line and flew across the distance to land on the alien hull and pulled the Polaris close and secured her then she began searching for an entrance in short order finding what appeared to be a large airlock of a strange iris design.

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Rachel shook her head finally as she re-verified the information she'd already collected on approach.

 

"There's no signals of any kind coming from it, and the whole thing's cold, no hotspots at all," she said. "This thing has been inactive for a long time. I think we're gonna hafta cut our way in. That said, there is one anomaly...Yseult, take a look at this."

 

She sent the scientist data she'd collected about the drive performance and the calculated mass of the object.

 

"It's heavy. Way heavier than we expected coming in. Our drive power is up just getting close to it. Even if we can't get in, we can get a little boost from this. On the other hand, that mass says to me that there must be something really dense inside. Like...really dense. Maybe even tiny black hole dense."

 

Rachel didn't say more, but the implication was clear. Whatever bizarre trick of physics had brought them out here might be repeatable if they had another singularity to play with.

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"You get on that. I'll see about opening this door up."

 

Karen's voice echoed in the private bubble of her helmet  and into the radio link, the monolithic hull beneath her magnetized boots cratered and ancient like a freighter not too long from the scrap yards, yet feeling so much older than that. A horizon of metal with a great green Eye of Sauron somewhere below her. She had half expected to see that orb pivot and blink in their direction as they came alongside...

 

But, overly vivid imagination aside, that left the iris in front of her. How to open it, how to open it..? Just as she was considering the potential of taking her plasma cutter to the thing, her suit highlighted a panel near-by. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Hmmm. Clips on the inside. If she... Yeah, that could work assuming the system was designed to work without power. That was the scariest thing about alien hulk. Ships vibrated. They moved and murmured and grumbled in their sleep, some subsystem running in the background even if it was just a damn emergency light.

 

This?

 

It felt cold and dead and abandoned like a ship being decommissioned, a loyal, living thing abandoned to it's angry ghosts. She'd been on enough joint bases to see them once or twice, and they gave her the heebie-jeebies. With shudder in her helmet, she forced the train of thought aside and tried her luck at opening the panel. It resisted like, duh, a long abandoned machine would. Angry at herself she took one, two clunking steps backwards and pulled Big Bertha out of her tool harness and clipped it to her suit. Right. Time to do this with leverage. She planted the tip of the tool under one clip, gave it enough pressure to confirm it was holding and then... Pulled, putting her back into it, powered armor whirring around her.

 

There was a faint vibration as the clip gave, the wrench nearly escaping her grip as the pressure did it's work.

 

"That's one," she commented unnecessarily into the radio, streaming the feed from her suit's camera back to the Polaris's bridge. So she did it again and one more time after that on the final clip. Barking out a laugh of satisfaction, she stomped back in closer to get a good grip and lever the panel upwards just enough to get Bertha back in. If this thing was going to blow up on her as it's joints failed... But no. Up it came revealing the biggest access panel she'd ever seen in her life, buttons the size of her palm big with an unpowered led and socket at the bottom.

 

Karen whistled, "Whoever, ET was, he was definitely on the big side, Cap'n. Any suggestions?" 

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"Buttons won't work," Rachel said softly, her eyes riveted to the feed from Karen's helmet. "There's not even an electron of power there. She needs to find a manual control...like a mechanical release of some kind. A lever or bolt or something."

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Yseult stared at the alien structure in wonder, marvelling at engineering feat that had been accomplished. Originally, she had never really wanted to be out here, in outer space. But she had been growing to accept it during her time on Polaris. Now, for far from home and family, for perhaps the first time, she was actually grateful to be out here, at least in this particular circumstance, to see such a thing. Slim, elegant fingers brushed the display of the extraterrestrial structure.

 

She blinked, making a startled little hop, when Rachel messaged her, sending her the readings. Yseult tore her eyes away to look at them, her arched brows rising. When Rachel had mentioned the... thing being heavier than expected, Yseult had be presuming the structure might simply be more solid than a probable human construction would be, with open hallways and living spaces and rooms. But this was surely not the case, its mass was simply too... massive for that.

 

14 hours ago, Rachel Eisley said:

"It's heavy. Way heavier than we expected coming in. Our drive power is up just getting close to it. Even if we can't get in, we can get a little boost from this. On the other hand, that mass says to me that there must be something really dense inside. Like...really dense. Maybe even tiny black hole dense."

 

"I am seeing," Yseult replied. "There is being approximately a ten percent increase in what the impellers are drawing. It is being better than nothing, no?"

 

The raven-haired woman pursed her lips in a moue of thought. Mass drives or harnessing the power of black holes or micro-singularities had been the stuff of science-fiction for over a century. But that did not mean they had not been seriously theorized about. And with the enigmatic appearance of the anomalies that had pulled them there, Yseult would not discount yet another potential anomalous singularity - if there was such about the structure - having no connection with the former.

 

"Perhaps," Yseult ventured reticently. "Though if there is being a power source that is functioning on such principles, why is there not being any power? I am not thinking such would... 'run out' as such, no? Damaged? Deactivating perhaps, a safety feature or protocol?"

 

Yseult tuned into Karen's feed, eyes narrowing at the sight of the socket revealed under the panel. "If you are not seeing - finding a mechanical lever or bolt or wheel or such, we are maybe needing a tool to act as a crank. Otherwise, perhaps we are being able adapt something to provide enough power to activate the iris - provided this structure, it is utilizing energy in any way we are familiar with."

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Ayato smiled as they neared the ship.  They'd done some rationing, but their supplies were still limited.   This was sort of an all or nothing gamble, the best and only option they'd had, and everyone knew it.
 

"Look for something like a manual release, a lever of some sort Karren."  Ayato said over his mic.  "There's no power at all, so it will have to be something that doesn't take it.  If they're smart enough to make a ships like this then there's bound to be a manual access."
 

He looked to Yesult, as she asked her questions.  "That theory does make sense, that it would go into standby mode, to avoid drawing attention."  He looked at her.  "Do you think we could use one of the external linkups on the Polaris to provide a trickle charge?  I mean this thing could also have some major defense systems, and adding abit of power might cause them to engage and wake this thing up.  I'm not saying to eliminate the option, but we need to be as prepared as we can for such a thing."

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The Chief studied the problem as she was wont to do. The socket on the panel was much larger than anything she carried in her kit, but with her usual straight forwardness, she pulled out her trusty wrench and sure enough the Head of the wrench would fit into the aperture. With a little test she found that the snugly fit wrench head afforded enough catch to allow the turning of the socket and with a bit of jury rigging, the Chief had attached the power tool tot he opposite end of the wrench and could now open the iris.

 

“I have it set up skipper, do you want me to proceed?”

 

Ayato considered for a moment though there was really no other option. “Go ahead chief. Be careful.”

 

The power drill silently turned the wrench which turned the socket, at first nothing happened then slowly the iris began to open. When the iris unsealed Karen didn't detect any tell tale puffs of atmosphere indicating that the other side had already been in vacuum, not a good sign. Once the opening was large enough to see in side the Chief halted the opening nad positioned herself in-front with her light shining inside. The light revealed what could pass for the inside of one of their own airlocks just bigger. She went back and continued opening the iris.

 

It took close to half an hour for the iris to open fully. In side Karen found and empty airlock with another iris, the same size and beside it another panel and socket. This panel like the one outside had no power. She also found that she was being affected by gravity albeit a very small amount, but there shouldn't have been any.

 

“Skipper I'm in some kind of small gravity field, it's slight but enough to hold me to the floor if I'm still.”

 

She moved back around the large airlock pausing , floating in several different spot before returning to the inside iris where she gently settled to the floor. “It seems the field is localized by the inside Iris, there is zero G elsewhere in the lock.”

 

“Alright Chief, hold up we are coming over.”

 

Ayato didn't like leaving the ship under-crewed but had no choice, He was a pilot not a scientist nor an engineer and he was going to need both. Under other circumstances he would have made a reconnaissance of the interior then brought over the technical crew but they didn't have that kind of time.

 

Shortly the Chief was joined in the airlock by the captain and both Yseult and Rachel. The outer Iris was closed and the inner opened and before them lay the interior of the first alien spaceship humankind had ever encountered.

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EVERYONE RECEIVES 4XP

Chapter II

The space suited crew of the Polaris stood in the airlock before the open Iris and peered into the absolute darkness before them. The captain and the two scientists had come across from Polaris to the gargantuan derelict and joined the Chief in the airlock once everyone was inside, chief closed the outer iris and then after ascertaining that communication was still possible with their ship, open the inner iris.

 

The helmet light penetrated the darkness revealing a corridor with an abnormally high ceiling and walls that were slightly curved from floor up. The corridor was also proportionally narrow compared with the height of the ceiling even though they could easily walk four abreast. The floor was textured and none slippery while the walls were smooth and seemed friction less. the ceiling was the same as the floor and indeed it looked as if the floor and ceiling  could be interchangeable depending on orientation due to gravity.

 

The crew moved into the ship and began exploring and soon found that all there was was the corridor no doors or opening could be found in the wall until they had traversed about a quarter of the ring and came to an opening in the floor which was located directly above the sphere in the center of the ring. Deep down in this hole they could see a faint green glow the first indication of anything except darkness and lifelessness.

 

 

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Ayato wasn't going to lie to anyone, he felt an extreme sense of exhiliration and no small amount of trepidation.  They had very little information, and this was totally alien construction to them.  "We'll go check out the light."  He said to the trio that were with him.  "It's better than walking in darkness, and perhaps we'll find some answers and maybe a way home."

The ship was huge, and as such they'd made regular calls.  He was hoping that as they went further this wouldn't be an issue.  Thus far they'd seen nothing but corridor.

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