Personal Log 161217-2237, supplemental
I ought to go back to what happened before, just so you know. Yes, you. Not your computer, I’m not talking to it, it’s a stupid machine and I’m not going to make my life more dangerous by teaching it anything. I’m talking to you, Adelaide. This log is for you, and any logs that follow, until we find a way to go home. I won’t preach, though the Stars Around know I’m sorely tempted; I’ll report, and you’ll know exactly what we’ve done, and why. You could even use the logs as proof it wasn’t you, when the Authorities come asking questions.
They will ask questions, I’m sure of it.
So, housekeeping first: after literal housekeeping of your quarters, I’ve found three bugs. I’m sure you knew they were there, why else would you have the secure recording protocols? I’ll keep using my own, and change the password each shift, because I suspect I haven’t found them all. I’ll change the password back to one of yours when we leave. So, if you’re reading this or listening to me, that’s why it was that easy. I wanted you to have access to these logs.
Back to the beginning of the shift: we arrived on station just in time to hear the news reporting us Missing In Action, and then excitedly announcing that we were back. Now that we’re really missing, but you’re there instead, have they noticed yet? What have they been saying?
Morlock was promoted to Lt. Sr., and appointed as XO on Viper. I’ve been searching your records for reports on Morlock… interesting balancing act.
We started with standard sims, I was XO and Science officer on Sabre, with the Fleet Captain in command, Quinn on Helm, Ironclad in Engineering, Xansta on Comms and Cdt. Phat on Weapons. Matsiyan took Viper, Hall took Horizon, as Cmdr. Aramond was on duty compiling data for our mission to come.
Then we set out on the mission, out into the Poseidon Rift again, with Section Blue’s Excalibur and the supply ship Grant joining us. In our previous forays into the Rift, we had had to rescue a couple of lost research ships; we were now told that one of the things they had been researching was an unusual resonance frequency. By unusual, I mean that each of the four Artefacts resonates on a particular frequency, and we think that’s how the Artefacts might communicate with each other; and now a fifth frequency had been detected, so Section Blue postulated the existence of a fifth Artefact. And we were setting out to find it.
Because we were going to be out in the Rift for an unspecified time, we were taking Grant along to carry extra supplies, and also CIC, to obviate the comms difficulties in the Rift. The Blue frigate would also be carrying special (and classified) equipment, and part of her remit was to escort Grant.
Needless to say, I put in a request to MedBay for medication. Because when dealing with Artefacts, Caltrons are never far. We were also warned that the gravity storms had returned to the Rift after its unnatural calm during our last mission there, so our search for the source of the fifth frequency would need particular watchfulness from all bridge officers.
We kept the same bridge crew on Sabre as we had had in the sim; on Horizon, Cmdr. Hall was in command, Nhaima on Helm, Draeco in Engineering, Agoom on Weapons, and a new cadet, James Brigham, on SciCom. Slate, despite being on medical leave, somehow managed to persuade the MedBay personnel to let her link in to the bridge. On Viper, her new XO, Lt. Sr. Morlock, took Command while Matsiyan transferred to Grant to join Aramond in CIC; Beaumont was on Helm, Vaj on Science, Xiph on Weapons, Maxwell in Engineering. On Excalibur, our two resident Hands of Blue, Espiar Azul and Frederick Autumn, took their places beside Vimes in Command, Graybeard in Engineering, Donovan on SciCom, Act. Ens. Ben on Helm, and Cdt. Spok on Weapons.
I’m listing them all so that I remember, when it’s time for awards nominations. Because dammit, this is the stuff of science fiction.
We were warned we’d find unstable conditions, and we did: we came through the Gate from Arietis into Poseidon 1 almost straight into a singularity. Thanks to prompt responses from Quinn and Ironclad, we warped out with no damage, though we chewed through energy to do so.
Pirates and gravitational eddies were the main dangers in that sector, but nothing out of the ordinary. We transitioned to Sector 2, and Excalibur shared intel that the resonance we were looking for had been detected coreward of Sector 2: meaning, in unmapped territory.
The image I saw as we transitioned into the sector was of massed Caltrons and asteroids in an unnaturally orderly spiral… then something affected the sensors, and I only had a partial image on my screen, still consistent with the spiral arrangement. The Caltrons were inactive, and we kept our distance, speculating that they might be triggered into action by proximity. I could read something in the centre of the spiral, but we had to work our way closer to be able to recognise a Hegemony transport.
We surmised the Kraliens were seeking the Artefact; as for how they had reached the centre of the formation without disturbing the Caltrons, we had seen cases where Caltrons had not attacked Kraliens, and speculated on the possibility that in the centuries of interaction with the Artefact they kept in their Oracle temple, the Kraliens had developed some form of communication that kept the Caltrons quiescent.
As we flew closer, we also detected something that registered as a USFP docking port at the centre… that’s much more difficult to explain. It also became clear that the Kraliens had gained access to the artefact and set up their base next to it, guarded by a science vessel and escorts.
Then one Caltron Primary attacked a nearby Senary: Section Blue had transmitted a command interference signal, which appeared to be successful. So we moved forward towards the base, and the Caltrons started waking up and turning towards us. Really, that’s what it felt like. They were coming online at our approach, turning, recognising us as threats. We engaged, and there was no time for speculation, just shield frequencies and damage reports.
And an injection of meds.
A few of the Primaries changed Status to friendly as Excalibur kept transmitting, but not enough. We had our work cut out with the combining Caltrons, and the Kraliens that jumped into the sector to defend the Artefact.
Eventually, Excalibur docked with the central base and the Artefact, dropped science teams on board, and switched the transponder frequency somehow. They managed to interface with the Artefact, disabled it, and met with increasing success in controlling the nearby Caltrons; meanwhile, some Zolmari ships entered the sector and the battle.
As the techs on the base continued to work to extend their control over the Caltrons and the Artefact, they reported they could keep it quiescent so that we could relocate it, as long as the sector was freed from outside interference. Meaning, that we had to keep new waves of hostile Kraliens away, and do that without docking at the station to refuel or resupply, in order not to disrupt the delicate operations in progress there.
There was a massive energy surge from the Artefact area. We cleared the final Kralien resistance, directed the Zolmari ships away, and the sector was finally under our control.
Back to Promethean… We were wrung out. I needed sleep, and probably detox, after that dose of meds. We got a debrief instead. ONI were energised by our success, finally seeing results after their continuing work. They had synced with the fifth Artefact’s systems, and while not saying anything actually meaningful, they declared themselves optimistic.
But there’s always a but: expectation of a Kralien invasion, because after all, that was at least two sacred Artefacts we had taken directly from them. I could muse about religion and the accumulation of spiritual and temporal authority, and how it did the Holy Roman Empire no good, but where would that get us?
The prospect of a Kralien attack made Section Blue especially eager to learn how to use the Artefact. They determined that conditions in the Rift had contributed to the success of their attempts so far, so they postulated that if all five Artefacts were to be brought into the Rift and placed in proximity to each other, they might establish stable communications, and could then be used… for what, exactly, Section Blue wouldn’t say.
What could possibly go wrong? Well, we know now.
Therefore, our next mission was to be to provide security overwatch for Section Blue and Directorate 13 (wheels within wheels: a front for Section Blue and other Naval security ops – does all this seem terribly familiar to you?). The prospect of some decisive event occurring when all five Artefacts were brought together lured Section Blue into thinking we might have an instrument that would allow us to decisively turn the tide against the Hegemony invasion. A decisive event definitely happened, just not the one they were expecting.
We took the same ships, (Aramond on Grant again), and were warned to look out for Caltrons and Kraliens – needless to say, nobody was surprised.
Because Directorate 13 had deemed Poseidon Sect. 4 the ideal place for the attempt, we headed Rimward from the Gate – we had to navigate some strong gravitational eddies, and search for a relatively stable area, preferably with singularities moving away from it, so that the Artefacts could be deployed. Large Kralien fleets, and a few Caltrons, attempted to interfere, and we fought them while Artefact 1 was placed in position.
Oh, yes, and I took more intravenous meds, dammit. So if I’m not entirely myself, I blame… oh, wait, I’m not, am I? Dammit. But you know exactly how I feel.
Do you know who I am yet? Have you found out about Paragon? I’m sorry for you if it came as a shock… or do you even care? I want to contact your family, I want to see them all, talk to them, go home – but we’re holding comms silence for now, and even when we determine we can contact the Naval authorities, what can I say? I’m glad you’re not dead? I’m glad the planet isn’t a burnt out husk? I’m glad my niece is going to grow up? They’d think I was mad; and I have no desire to try out the facilities in Mercy Hospital, from what research I’ve been able to do on the place. Hell’s bells, Adelaide, what kind of doctors do that to patients? Does it seem normal to you?
Hell’s Bells, by the way, should actually be Hell’s Belles. It sounds the same, but the difference is crucial. They were a group of Hellions Mita and I made up when we were children: all girls, they developed superpowers, beat up their boyfriends, and left for the Rogue Isles to form their own supervillain group. We had dolls, you see, and this seemed the best use for them. We designed and replicated costumes for them, and we had avatars for them on our games console, so we could program them into scenarios. We even made a supervillain lair for them, decorated with skulls and bat-winged statues and spooky stuff. There was Belle St. Trinian, whose favourite weapon was a hockey stick, and Belle Lacrosse (no need to guess), and Bow Belle (trick arrows), and… well, we were children, you can’t expect maturity and originality. Anyway, the team’s battlecry was “Hell’s Belles and Buckets of Blood!” which was about the most evil thing we could think of at the time. So it was our secret swearword, for when we really meant business. And that explains how I stumbled onto your password. The question remains, what made you choose to set it?
Back to the Rift: we fought and refuelled, fought and refuelled, as more Kraliens and Caltrons tried to stop us, but one by one the Artefacts were being deployed; singularities started closing in on them, seemingly unaffected by the gravity waves; and on my Science console I started getting odd readings, as the Command vessels moved in to set the final Artefact in place.
The gravity waves decreased and stabilised; the singularities stopped drifting through the sector; everything was unnaturally calm.
Matsiyan was seeing… I’m not sure, actually, if there was a demarcation line between what was reaching my brain through his, or through my own optic nerves. I think there were more colours than the human eye can perceive; objects were at once crystalline and nebulous, not in the sense of unfocused, because the edges and surfaces of things were preternaturally sharp, but in the sense that I thought I could see into the insides of them. It was the opposite of a Caltron headache, a sense of lightness, clearness, as if I was about to see further and deeper into the universe
Then all systems failed. The ship went dark, and silent, except for the human voices. The same happened on Viper; the same, I’ve heard since then, happened on every ship. It was a brief eternity. Then systems rebooted, life support was functional, comms were operational, we were able to check that every ship was there, though nothing was quite the same as it had been. I expect you went through something similar: structural changes to the vessels, changes to uniforms, even on our consoles, inability to establish our position with any certainty, inability to make comms contact outside our Division. Or Hunter Group.
Morlock’s uniform has a symbol on it that can’t be removed, not rank… and he’s the only non-human bridge officer in the Division at present. From what I find in your logs, that’s no coincidence. Really, Adelaide? Really?
I said I wouldn’t preach. I shan’t.
I look in the mirror, and there’s a scar on my… your face. I’ve read how you got it. I feel so tempted to go to MedBay, when the emergency abates, and ask Doc to grow new skin. I don’t know if that’s ethical. That’s really the least of our problems at the moment. It can wait.
Dammit, I could do with a cool cup of Hjocoa… and there’s none on Grant. If there’s no Hjocoa to be had on the first station we dock at, I shall be profoundly disappointed in your universe. No amount of Zeppelins can possibly make up for Hjocoa.