Cnsev tormalinas lost, p.3

CNSEV Tormalinas, Lost, page 3

 

CNSEV Tormalinas, Lost
 


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  Chapter 2

  Askelon 1.5

  The senior officers and scientists gathered near the rear of the Tormalinas. The crew mingled for a few minutes there until Gunnery Sergeant Melvin Benavides raised a hefty bell high above his head. The bell looked like a small Liberty Bell that might weigh a lot more and might be a lot harder to lift if it wasn’t for the diminished gravity of Askelon 1.5. He struck the bell with his hammer once, then again. The surprisingly loud noise echoed for a while back and forth through the rocky tunnels and caverns. When the loud clanging echo of the bell finally faded, Benavides yelled, “Call to order.”

  “Congratulations Major,” Colonel Ian Keeghan said as he stepped forward and shook Amy Porter’s hand. “It took me 11 more years of service to go from Captain to Major. Although, I will say half of that time was wasted lost in the Warwick system. Well Major, how does it feel to be the first portal navigator of the bleeping Commonwealth of bleeping Nations to reach the rank of Major?”

  Keeghan, a tall thin man, ran his fingers through his thick, rusty red hair, about 30 days of growth. He hadn’t had his hair trimmed, nor had he shaved since coming out of hypersleep.

  Amy ran her fingers across her own bald head, mirroring him, wondering what she would look like if she could ever grow hair. She decided she liked red hair and if by choice she could grow hair, she would want it to be red, red like Keeghan’s. Red hair would be optimal.

  She glanced in the direction of Lieutenant Marleen Huang standing nearby. The Lieutenant stared back at Amy. Amy planned to ask Marleen about her hair preferences later. She thought Lieutenant Huang would look optimal with turquoise hair.

  Huang, a portal navigator like Amy, permanently bald like Amy, is hard to anticipate, but turquoise is as good a calculation as any calculation, Amy thought.

  Commonwealth protocols dictated exploring vessels have two portal navigators also known as dark space navigators assigned. Amy didn’t like Marleen. Amy avoided her when possible, but lately she thought about bridging the gap, getting to know the Lieutenant better, becoming her friend, finding out more about her to hopefully optimize their service together on the Tormalinas. She was at least resigned to think about it.

  “Sir, I sincerely appreciate your confidence in me to approve my promotion. It feels like a long time coming for me, like it’s been long overdue, but no offense Sir.”

  “None taken Major, I agree with you. Maybe soon enough the prejudice against navigators will subside. You are a true pioneer, not just a navigator, but also a qualified leader and vessel commander. I hope and expect all the best for your continued success.”

  “Thank you.”

  “Okay everyone, dismissed.” Colonel Keeghan said.

  Gunnery Sergeant Benavides rang the bell again. The crew applauded and most of them went back to what they were doing. Some came to shake Amy’s hand and wish her Godspeed, the standard congratulation in most ceremonies like this.

  Amy then watched the crew split up, some heading back into the tunnels and some went back to work on the Tormalinas, inside the vessel and outside. She looked up as if looking at stars in the sky. She blinked and in a rush, she walked over to a trash receptacle and threw up.

  “You optimal Major?” Keeghan asked.

  “I’ll be optimal soon, Sir. It always takes me some time cycles longer to get used to gravity again.”

  “We’ve been here on Askelon 1.5 for two week cycles. It didn’t take longer than a few day cycles the last few times, if I recall correctly.”

  “It can sometimes take longer and sometimes less. I think it’s got to be because we’re not actually on a real planet. We’re just on this chunk of a planet, plus this artificial atmosphere. I can taste it. I can taste the artificialness and it is most unpleasant, not at all optimal. Plus with only one-fourth of Earth gravity…” she heaved again into the receptacle and wiped sweat from her face and bald head, “…and then when I look out from here using visuals I can see all the other planetoid chunks swirling high in space above us, in-between those three stars. There, did you see that impact? Did you feel it?. It feels…” she heaved again into the receptacle, “…dangerous. Not at all like navigating dark space. So, no, I haven’t gotten used to it yet.” Amy sipped some of the liquid from the small squeeze pouch she kept in her hip pocket.

  “Well I never did understand how you navigators maintain your sanity in dark space. I know navigators don’t need to sleep, but you may want to try it. I bet that would help settle things down for you, maybe try a sedative,” Keeghan said.

  “Lieutenant Huang suggested the same things when we first arrived. She said she’s worked in an asteroid field before, I think the Preston 4 Field around Keystone 7?”

  “Keystone 7 is ten times worse than this. Since this is your first asteroid field exploration, take it easy. You’re right. It’s certainly a lot more dangerous and peculiar and a lot less optimal than exploring a moon or a solid planet. When you look up, you see things in action. You see the chunks rotating, revolving, circling and spinning. You see the stars moving unlike being on a planet with a single star and a predictable daylight and rotation cycle. Nothing up there seems to be moving in a predictable pattern.”

  “In 76 year cycles of doing this, you think maybe I’d see an asteroid mission or two,” Amy said.

  “Well it was definitely an optimal calculation and decision to schedule onsite evaluations and land us here, bleeping optimal Major. This system with four stars, one collapsed, is a gold mine of stellar data. These caverns you and the Tormalinas located clearly show signs of ancient life. We are very fortunate to have landed here.”

  “Thank you, Sir.”

  Colonel Keeghan added, “Plus I love it whenever we can beat those bleeping pirate scavengers to the punch. How much longer do you estimate before the Nebraska arrives?”

  The Tormalinas sentient chimed in, “Sir, our latest calculated projection shows the Commonwealth of Nations Stellar Salvage Vessel 44, CNSSV Nebraska to be 61.36 spans away, arriving arrive in 60.81 day cycles.”

  “You hear that Major?” Keeghan said, slapping Amy on the shoulder. “We’ve got plenty of time for work, sleep, and recreation. I order you to add optimal quantities of all three to your workplan and to the crew’s workplans.”

  “Yes Sir. I will.”

  Colonel Keeghan sat down at a table the construction destruction crew carved out of the grey volcanic rock for his weekly sectional staff meetings. He started by first acknowledging the 16 senior officers, scientists and enlisted staff also seated at the table carved into the floor of the large cavern.

  “We can get our status meeting started now,” he said. “Major? You have your wrap-up report ready?”

  “Yes Sir. I’ll get started. The Tormalinas will now activate audiovisual links for everyone through your linking implants.”

  Gunnery Sergeant Benavides spoke, “Ma’am, my linking implant has been malfunctioning for the last day cycle. I won’t be able to follow along audiovisually.”

  “Chief Engineer Charlie Waters spoke up, “Is that because of all the illegal visuals you are quite fond of?”

  “Bleep you Waters. I’m no more fond of illegal visuals than any normal and optimal male crew member. So, what’s your excuse?”

  “Please,” Keeghan said, rubbing his temples. “Not now. Major, bleeping continue.”

  Amy said, “Tormalinas, before we begin, did you schedule Gunnery Sergeant Benavides for a repair to his linking implant?”

  “Yes Ma’am. I can confirm his implant is malfunctioning, but the next chance for repair will be during hypersleep after we leave Askelon. The repair has been scheduled.”

  “Gunnery Sergeant, if you will just close your eyes and use your imagination I will provide sufficient detail for you to follow along with us. It’s a short report, so I’m sure you will be able to keep up.”

  Waters laughed out loud.

  “Okay, I’ll continue with my report.

  We reached the Askelon syste
m at 1907, six week cycles ago. After scanning the system and the asteroid rings for two week cycles, Colonel Keeghan approved landing protocols for Askelon 1.5. We landing and then launched several search, exploration, and recovery, teams.

  Data from the SER teams confirmed what our scanners detected; Askelon 1 or 2 or both may have had intelligent life at one time. SER Team 8 reported the first significant finding as they zeroed in on the radiation signal we detected from deep space. They located a vast underground honeycomb network of ancient deserted alien cities. While it may have hosted a vibrant diversity of life more than 60,000 Newtonian year cycles ago, the planetoid currently is an inactive rock.

  Because the surface of this chunk was known to be very cold and inhospitable, the Tormalinas burrowed deeper into a system of caverns SER Team 19 detected. Once we landed the Tormalinas inside these caverns we sealed them off and initiated life support protocols. It took our construction destruction teams four day cycles to reconfigure the caverns for life support within acceptable tolerances.

  This seemed like a great and optimal place to test the new life support generators we upgraded to 12 year cycles ago in Kovo sector. Teams began exploring caverns and tunnels without space suits immediately. Still very difficult and treacherous.

  On day cycle six, SER Team 3 reported the loss of Cassidy Worginovski who suffered catastrophic injuries because of a faulty demolitions job.”

  Jerry Hines, the senior construction destruction officer and demolitions expert spoke up, “It was a tragic accident. I don’t agree with the adjective faulty, because there have been numerous problems with the L-3 demolitions lasers since they were procured. Worginovski was a bleeping good technician. Her death was less than optimal. I don’t think it was because of her own fault.”

  Colonel Keeghan asked, “Her remains?”

  The Tormalinas spoke up, “After my confirmation that her injuries were too significant to support revivication, I had her remains prepared for shipment. I can confirm as of today, her remains were included in the last shipment of findings and acquisitions sent back to Earth Prime. Receipt has been confirmed.”

  “I have an open invitation if anyone would like to visit her family with me when we return to Earth Prime,” the Colonel said. “We will have to subtract the value of her accidental death from overall profits following protocol, agreed?”

  “Agreed, protocol,” Benavides said.

  The Colonel said, “No more accidents. We can’t afford it.”

  “Continuing,” Amy said. “Several SER Teams reported finding ancient artifacts. A wide variety of these samples were recovered and brought back to the Tormalinas. I might add here, SER Team 4 made use of the site to site portal displacement pads for transporting objects from deep inside the planetoid to the Tormalinas.”

  Gunnery Sergeant Benavides asked, “No volunteers to use the site to sites for personal travel?”

  “No volunteers,” Amy said.

  “I assure you the displacement pads are optimal. They are more than capable of transporting personnel just as well as artifacts,” the Tormalinas said.

  “Maybe next time,” the Colonel said.

  “Continuing. As expected, the whole network of underground cities, caverns, and tunnels were devoid of life. SER Team 12 reported finding the exact location and the source of the radiation signatures the Tormalinas detected from deep approach. This may be the most lucrative find of all our travels during our current expedition. Eight year cycles out here and we strike the find of a lifetime on the last month cycle before we return.”

  “That’s life,” Benavides said. “Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you.”

  “I don’t know what that means,” Waters yelled. “Does anyone know what the bleep that means?”

  The Colonel rubbed his temples again.

  “Continuing. We resourced all SER Teams to excavate the device. Shown here, it appears to be a large artificial intelligence device, larger than the Tormalinas.

  Several of our engineers worked on the device to see if they could at least access more systems located in the heart of the tunnel network. The device is very similar to some sort of automated data/computer system. The technology is altogether alien and so we have not figured out anything more than it may have once controlled multiple world functions such as communications and life support. It’s an amazing discovery and it has already been shipped in pieces back to Earth Prime.”

  “Well that’s good news,” the Colonel said. “What are our current profit margins?”

  “Sir, we are anticipating 40 percent profits.”

  “39.67 percent to be exact, on a total yield of 17.44 mega-angstroms,” the Tormalinas’ sentient said.

  “Are you bleeping bleeping me?” the Colonel asked.

  “Sir, I bleep you not,” the Tormalinas responded.

  “The stockholders will be more than satisfied. This single recovery just may be our invitation to a bigger mission. Share this with the crew. If anyone is interested in joining us on our next mission in twenty-five year cycles, I want them to annotate their personnel files. I’ll seek a deeper space commission next time.”

  “Continuing,” Amy said. “A number of other ancient technologies were also recovered here, some potentially operable and some not. Archeological teams found no evidence of what happened to the life that inhabited the planet. There have so far been no findings of any bio-matter, no bones, no corpses, no tombs, and no burial sites or mummies. As our Chief Archeologist, Sanghita likes to talk about.”

  Sanghita, seated across the table, laughed, and said, “What? I do not believe mummies are unique to ancient Earth cultures. Ancient Egyptian and Ethiopian culture delivered to Earth by ancient aliens is a well-documented and supported fact.”

  “Continuing. What we can surmise is the ancient technologies shown here and the cities, tunnels, and caverns suggest the planet supported people or beings much smaller than humans. We crawled through many of the tunnels and then construction destruction teams worked to make other areas accessible for excavation teams. We are aware there may be more valuable findings deeper in this planetoid and on other planetoids of the system; however, we also remain entirely apprehensive since something caused this planet to be devoid of all life a very long time ago. It is very likely the chunk does not contain more recoverables than we have so far sampled. We also calculate that with continued cosmic events, this system will soon once again become unstable and listed as off limits.

  The honeycomb shown here, located 22 kilometers directly beneath us, is in the most pristine condition with almost all of it remaining intact. Here is where Gunnery Sergeant Benavides’ and Sanghita’s teams located a strange cavern or large room that has been sealed off from the rest of the networks. It appears that whoever whatever inhabited the city sealed off this area or perhaps constructed the tunnels and caverns around the chamber.

  We were, of course anxious to see what was inside the large chamber. Using the Tormalinas’s deepest scanning array, we could see the entire chamber, closed off on all sides from all angles, as shown here by this dark shape in the scans. The Gunnery Sergeant’s SER team used old demolitions explosives to gain an entry into the chamber.”

  “Old reliable magnetite, we stripped some from one of the Tormalinas’ defensive missiles,” the Gunnery Sergeant said.

  “I wish I could have been there to see it,” the Colonel commented.

  “Playing now,” the Tormalinas sentient said.

  “Bleep. That explains the intense shuddering we heard reverberating through the planetoid last week cycle,” the Colonel added.

  “Continuing. Inside the chamber, we found an impressive series of smaller chambers, like a drone hive.”

  The Tormalinas showed video from the chamber’s hive and then showed video of drone insects. It said, “My files indicate these were called bees in ancient English and madhumakkhi in Hindi, or just simply bugs.”

  “Son of a bleep, those are hideous creatures,” Ch
arlie Waters, the Chief Engineer, said. “In all my years, I’ve never seen anything like that. Can you warn us before you show anything like that again?”

  “I’ll try to be more sensitive,” the Tormalinas said. “Although, humans have lived with bugs for thousands of year cycles before current time cycles. They were considered to be quite harmless in most regards. Humans and bugs have danced around for dominance on Earth for the entirety of Earth history.”

  “Not any humans I ever heard of,” Waters said.

  “Continuing. Your visuals are showing the chamber, dark, cold, and foreboding. We were not able to scan the chamber before entering it. The chamber is incased in some sort of material that blocks all forms of our scans. Upon gaining entrance, we detected nothing at all of value inside the chamber, just a seemingly endless series of smaller chambers.”

  The visual showed Gunnery Sergeant Benavides putting his arm inside one of the small chambers up to his elbow. Then he screamed, “Bleep, bleeping bleep,” as if in pain, withdrew his arm fast, and said, “Just kidding.”

  “You bleep,” the Colonel said. “You’re lucky my great great granddaughter likes you. I’d fire your bleep just for that bleep alone. You must be less than bleeping optimal in your cranial cavity.”

  “Such foul language Sir,” Benavides said. “What would your great great granddaughter Michelle think?”

  “She’s older than both of us, so I imagine she’s heard worse.”

  Waters put his head down on the cold hard stone table, laughing, but trying to remain inconspicuous.

  “Continuing. We were disappointed not to find anything of any value in the chamber. There was nothing in the larger chamber, but smaller chambers and darkness. Perhaps, we think, the room may have been some sort of food or energy production chamber. No life signs and no bio-matter registered in the chamber.”

  Sanghita spoke, “There is some potential the chamber is alien to this planet. It may not have originated from here.”

  “As in someone built it here?” the Colonel asked.

  “The chamber is made of altogether different materials than anything we have evaluated in the planetoid chunks so far,” Sanghita said.

  “We theorize someone either brought it here or built it here,” Amy said.

  “That’s bleeping incredible,” the Colonel said. “Who would build something so elaborate and so deep inside and alien planet, and why?

  “Continuing. Later we were able to get a short burst of power into the systems of the city area where we worked excavating. We tried to decipher the alien systems, with no luck. We calculated the beings of the planet somehow suffered some sort of apparent plague or some other form of problem that wiped them out long ago.

  So there you have it Colonel. We believe we have explored this site and recovered all that is worth recovering at this point. We have a recommendation for concluding our mission and returning to flight plans as approved.”

  “Any objections to leaving?” the Colonel asked.

  No one said anything.

  The Colonel said, “I don’t want to leave just yet. When was the last time we all took a bleeping break and had some joy, some merriment, some fun? Twelve year cycles in active mission protocols and not one single day cycle of joy. ‘Work work work,’ my mother used to say, makes for a twisted life cycle.

  He scratched at the growth of red hair on his chin. “Two week cycles, we have two week cycles approved before we need to get back on our original flight plan. The artifacts from this expedition will prove to be more lucrative than anything any of us have ever seen before. Most of our crew will retire. I won’t. Most of you will never see each other again. So there you have it crew. I am ordering all of us to recreate. Use the remaining two week cycles to get used to life back in the Earth Prime system. It’s not very often a vessel crew gets the chance to reacclimate before portal displacement extraction. I’m not going to ask if there are any objections, because I already know there are objections. Your orders are to recreate. Thank you for the report Major.”

  “Now Sanghita,” the colonel asked, “how soon do you think you can have a tennis court ready?

  {Return to Table of Contents}

 
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