In the remote regions of the Milky Way, a group of explorers stumbled across a wide-beam transmission. Standing on deck was a weathered man in his forties, wearing ragged clothes and short-cut hair. HThis was captain Elliton Grey, a former pilot for the Human Republic who retired to live as a space explorer shotly before the Thal invasion. He stood on the bridge of an old ship accompanied by six other bridge crew of varying backgrounds.
Elliton relaxed i nthe captain's chair and looked to Arayah Mills, a conn officer from the frontier colonies.
Elliton - Arayah, what have you found?
Arayah - I wish I knew, but the translaters need time to decipher it; the language is completely new and does not entirely match common syntax orders.
Elliton - In english?
Arayah - I need tiem to work out what they are saying, if they are saying anything.
Elliton - Oh-kay, any idea where it si coming from?
Helmsman Jonas - Estimated twelve light-years at bearings two-ten, elevation minus three-give degrees. Shall I set course captain?
Elliton - Go ahead, let's see what we can find.
The ship primed its warp drives and jumped to a red dwarf star. Orbiting twice the distance between Earth and the Sun was a frozen planet. The signal was being emitted from on the surface.
Elliton gathered some crew members including field engineers, soldiers and scientists in the shuttle bay of the ship. They donned hazerouds environment suits to deal with a blizzard passing over the site, with winds traveling at over 70mph. Ice shards were bing thrown about, fortunately for the team theri suits came equipped with phasic shielding layered over the suit's material.
Elliton could feel the effects of the ice impacting on the shielding of the shuttle. He wondered to himself if it was better if he waited until the blizzard passed but on this planet that could be hours or even days. he activated a wall console on the bulkhead to get a clear look, the entire team was stunned to see a frigate-sized ship partially-buried in the ice. There was a jolt as the shuttle landed in the ice and elliton and his crew donned the final pieces of their environment suits and opened a side door to be confronted with a side-on blizzard. The shuttle had landed a few metres from the site and the team wasted no time looking for an opening.
The bulkhead itself had been damaged, places where it was intact were devoid of welding marks or panel divides. The hull was embossed with various large, swirling patterns. The crew found a gash in the hull that they could possibly enter through. One of the engineers set up a portable forcefield generator that extended around them to rptect the from the blizzard while the rest of the group primed plasma torches and began cutting away. The wind howled across the icy plain, broken by the sounds of plasma cutters. Elliton sighed and placed a hand on the bulkhead near the gash. He looked even more closely at the edge and noticed that the hull panel was extending out, as though it was growing. He was distracted when there wa sa loud clank and one of the engineers called out with glee. Elliton sighed with relief and followed them inside.
It was much calmer inside. The icy wind could be mistaken for the rumble of engines if they were still working. One of the scientists, named Rhyan crall approached Elliton.
Rhyan - Captain, look at this stuff. It looks five times more sophisticated than what the Republic has to offer at least.
Elliton - Shiny hallways always look higher-tech, what's your point exactly?
Rhyan - I'm trying to pick up electronics signals but look at what I am seeing.
Rhyan pressed several buttons on a wrist panel for his suit and Elliton could see what he saw; there were energy currents within the walls but the means of transmission were not clear. The walls themselves had little sign they held energy transfer systems.
Ellition - Any idea who built this?
Rhyan - Well, certain infrastructure aspects suggest DCP-level tech, maybe more. But there's no way the Grimbs themselves built this; You know how they like to keep to a functional level when it coems to architecture.
Elliton - Yeah; straight sides, low mood lighting, typical industrial feel. This stuff reminds me of those stories of aliens from the 20th century, y'know the ones in all those alien abduction stories.
Looking into a lightshaft they saw the twinkling of particulates in the air, illuminated in the light. Rhyan waved his hand within the light to take readings and looked at his HUD after retracting it.
Rhyan - Nanomachines, captain. But get this, I'm reading signs of biopolymers, silicon, carbon, this is incredible.
Elliton - Biopolymers? Are you saying these things have--
Rhyan - Partially-organic traits, yes. it's like looking into a plant cell, only smaller.
Elliton - Are they dangerous or not?
Rhyan - They seem inert... I think.
Elliton - 'you think'?
Rhyan - I'm not exactly used to this kind of machinery. Unless I see them active I don't know waht the could do, perhaps they are like stem cells?
Elliton - Yeah, I saw the bulkhead slowly closing up.
Rhyan - Like skin tissue trying to heal a wound--
One of the group turned ot them and walked up curiously to the pair.
Soldier - Are you telling us this is some kind of living starship?
Rhyan - Possibly, or its creators simply wanted to emulate an organic body.
Meet the MakersEdit
They walked into a room that had recieved damage. Fro mthe outset it appeared to be a cienc elab, with apparatus that lookedsomewhat unfamiliar to most of the group. In the corner however, Rhyan spotted a pair of legs and ran over to discover a slender, blue-skinned humannoid with a pointed cranium. The body was heavily bruised and there was a alrge gash on its stomach He kneeled down and pressed his hand on the torso and sighed with a heavy heart as a red flash appaered on the back of his glove. Elliton walked over and Rhyan shook his head.
Elliton - How long?
Rhyan - Not sure, possibly a few hours.
Elliton lloked at the body and his jaw dropped
Elliton - My God... it looks--
Rhyan - Human? Hm, don't kid yourself captain I'm reading several divergences, chief of which is a more complex DNA helix. He's humanoid, but not human.
Elliton - What killed him?
Rhyan - According to my readings, he suffered an injury to his intestines and was leaking fluids. While he could get himself away from the danger zone the nanomachines in his bloodstream could not fully counteract the damage.
Elliton - Nanos In his blood?
Rhyan - Yes, his intestinal tract was almost completely cut in half, i'm having trouble getting a reading because these machines have been breaking the body down.
Elliton - Why would someone do that?
Two security team members kept watch. Looking outside into the corridor, one of them thought he saw a blur and cautiously walked over to investigate, keping his finger close to the trigger of his rifle. As he unwittingly separateed himself from the group he thought he saw the disruption again. Out of nowhere he felt something invisible collide with him and pin him to the wall. A creature like the dead alien appeared in front of him, revealing itself to be the one that had hit him. It's eyes narrowed laterally as it placed a hand on the side of his helmet and glared as if concentrating. After a few minutes it stopped and, while still ahving one hand on his helment, rested a long pointed finger against its lips. Hearing the alien shushhim subvocally, soldier could not help but feel drowsy and slid down the wall as he fell asleep. After collapsing, the alien lifted him up and moved him to a secluded area before it left him to sleep, returning to a cloaked state as it did so.
Back in the lab, Elliton noticed the alien had been holding a black rhombus-like device. He slowly picked it up and took hold of it, he wondered what it was and why the alien was holding it. Suddenly he felt a sensation in his bionic arm, the same arm he held the object in. Straange images, markings and glyphs flashed in front of his eyes, disorienting him and causing him to drop the device, which landed with several clinks on the cold ceramic floor. The noise drew the attentino of Rhyan who stood up and walekd over to catch Elliton just before he lost balance and fell over.
Rhyan - What just happened to you?
Elliton - I don't know, I picked up this thing the alien was holding, I wondered what it was then "boom", something flashed in my eyes. I think my left arm's numb...
Rhyan passed his hand over Elliton's bionic arm, concernedfor his captain's well-being.
Rhyan - Odd, there was a powersurge from just before you dropped the device; Roundabout jut before you saw these images. What did you see?
Elliton - I... I don't know exactly. There was a flash and letters everywhere in a script i've never seen before. Best way to describe it is my eyes screwed up.
Rhyan - There's no lasting damage, it seems you simply had a-- hold on: Apparently the storage unit in your head was recently bulked up by twenty gigabytes. I'm running a diagnostic on the data now but it looks like jargon, as if whatever was in there your implants couldn't decode it.
Elliton - Where the hell did I get that from?
Rhyan - That device, maybe it's a storage medium of some kind?
Elliton - I only touched it, normally touching a SCSI disk does not mean it automatically rams 200 gigabytes into my head!
Rhyan - I'm sorry captain but it's all junk. I can't make heads or tails of it.
Elliton - Then what do you suggest?
Rhyan looked about. what passed for a computer was not entirely like he was used to. He approached what looked like a human-like handprint on the surface of a workstation. He looked at his hand and gently fit his within the boundary.
Nothing happened per se but he could feel a tingling sensation. Rhyan had been born on one o fthe Republic's frontier colonies, unlike Elliton or most of the crew he never bothered with cybernetic enhancements. He grew up a simple life, not one filled with the latest gadgets or software, even when he studied ot become a doctor he did not bother with implants and it showed on his results. Elliton was one of the few people who respected him for what some called 'a voluntery handicap'. He sighed when he realised nothing was happening and turned back to Elliton with a solemn shake of his head.
Rhyan - Sir, can you brave trying? You probably have the implants I lack.
Elliton shrugged and walked over to the handprint. He rested his bionic arm on it and felt a flash in his head. He saw numbers and coding again, his brain had trouble making it out, but there was some simple coding that structured its own HUD in front of his eyes. It dawned on him that the reason the 'computer' was simply a handprint was because the user became part of the machine.
Elliton - More gibberish, glyphs... I can't make any of it out.
Rhyan - Is there anything you can make out?
Elliton - You were right in thinking this was a computer, I think the users' eyes are the monitor.
He was awed by the sophistication. One of the escorts callled out as she saw another fluctuation.
Soldier - Captain, grab your--
The soldier was silenced when there was a strong impact on her stomach, something then smacked her in the head which knocked her over, a shot from her plasma rifle hit something and caused a ripling distortion, characteristic of a malfunctioning cloaking field. Elliton pulled out a plasma pistol and fired several shots, vaguely guessing where the figure was as it ran across the room and scooped up the device on the floor. After a dozen shots his gun stopped working, indicating there was something jamming the weapon system and gave time fro the strange figure to escape.
Elliton and Rhyan ran in the entity's direction, as they turned a corner they noticed their shuit HUDs were blaring of a containment breach. Looking down they both noticed that the once-placid nanomachines drifting in the air were now eating their way though the environemnt suits and were colldiding with the shielding to get through. They continued to chase the figure and ellito nfired a lucky shot that caused a high-pitched grunt and with a thud the creature revealed itself.
Unknown to them, this was the same alien that had ambushed their companion without theri knowledge. He looked up at them with glinting eyes and a furious expression. What disturbed the pair was the visible lack of nostrils and the way his eyelids closed laterally. He was wearing a set of tight, clean overalls that covered all but his head and made of a crisp material, too smooth to be fabric but too dull to be plastic or metallic. Summoning his strength he lifted his arm to reveal he was wearing a glove device with a lens that fitted over his palm, he pointed it frantically at Elliton, however he was hesitant to fire. Elliton walked up to the alien and pointed his pistol in the creature's face.
Elliton - What the hell are you!
Drelen - I am Drelen Geresab of the Theian Technocracy. And you are on one of our ships.
Elliton - Why did you attack us, we came because of your signal!
Drelen - I was curious at first, when one of your soldiers went to investigate me I learned that you are a ship of scavengers. I could not allow ou ship to fall into such hands.
Elliton - Why? because you want ot keep it all for yourself?
Drelen - The knowledge it contains, and the knowledge we contain, you are not ready.
Elliton - 'We'? Are you some kind of hive mind?
Drelen - Not quite.
Elliton - Then what?
Drelen held his side as he stood up Elliton lifted his pistol to keep it aimed at Drelen's head. He glared with dissapointment.
Drelen - Please, get off our ship and leave us in peace, we have no quarrel with you.
Elliton - You knocked out two of my soldiers and you're obstructing our operation.
Drelen - I will not let you strip this ship. Go on, kill me!
Elliton smirked, he's had enough but when he prepared to squeeze he found he could not move his finger. He and Rhyan were immoblised as Drelen smirked. The gun fell distintegrated in Elliton's hand and all he could do was watch.
Elliton - Damn nanos...
Drelen - Hm. Scavengers.
Drelen retracted his arm and thrusted his palm into Elliton's chest, sending him backwards. Rhyan panicked as Drelen stepped closer. Drelan eyed him up and reached his bony hand out and rested it on Rhyan's left cheek and closed his eyes. Rhyan could see he put himself under an REM sequence and after a minuteDrelan pulled his hand away and opened his eyes.
Drelan - You have promise, human, but I do not have the time. I have implanted wehre your fellow human was stored. Take him and go.
Rhyan - I want to know what happened.
Drelan - We were on a mission, we encountered an unforseen incident, we had to land somewhere. I cannot say more.
Rhyan - A-alright.
Rhyan could feel himself being able to move. He ran over to help Elliton up as Drelan walked deeper into the ship. both of them looked at the alien with curiosity and wondered to themselves; could they ever achieve such a level of advancement?
Soul of the MachineEdit
Rhyan sighed as Drelan left. As he turned and walked towards Elliton there was a ripple as a forcefield suddenly materialised between them.
Elliton - Rhyan what did you touch? Rhyan - I didn't do anything. Elliton - Well something turned the barrier on. Rhyan - Stay there i'll look for another way round. Elliton - Like i'm waiting here, meet me at the shuttle. Rhyan - On your own? Elliton - I'll gather the others. That alien did say where one of our escort was hidden. Rhyan - Well... Alright. See you back at the shuttle captain.
Elliton turned around and headed away while Rhyan looked down the corridor. With a sigh herested his hand against a pistol holster and walked down the hall. Oddly, when he passed through intersections there were more forcefields over alternate routes except for one; even the path behind him was blocked by a forcefield. He frowned, feeling as though he was being led somewhere but he could not do anything due to the lack of any cybernetics in his body. He grew more suspicious as it became more and more clearer that something was leading him. A few steps before a forcefield materialised within the corridor he was in the middle of, he had pulled out his pistol and primed it. The only path he could see was through a wide pair of doors that opened for him. He gripped his pistol tightly as he cautiously walked inside.
The large, oval-shaped room was lined with odd circuitory that travered from the floor to the ceiling and into a booth in the centre of the room. It was facing away form him and as he walked around he noticed it looked more and more like a chair was inside. Resting against the wall was a female Theian wearing a jumpsuit identical to what Drelan had. She was stroking the wall with a claming expression on her face. Rhyan saw her and lowered his gun slightly. She turned away from what she was doing and her eyes glinted in the light nanomachine-relected as she looked at Rhyan.
??? - Please, she is hurt, she needs comforting.
Rhyan - Who?
??? - Rethadia, the ship.
Rhyan - ...I don't understand.
The woman pointed with her finger towards the booth. When Rhyan turned to look he notied there was a theian woman in a recliner. She appeared ot be in a coma and lay in the large ocmfortable chair breathing softly. Rhyan lifted his hand away and lowered his pistol to his side and cocked his head with ocnfusion.
Rhyan - WHat do you mean by 'the ship'?
??? - She surrendered herself to become one. I am comfoting her, she is in pain.
Rhyan - By pain you mean the hull damage, right?
The woman nodded softly when Drelan walked in with a scowl. Rhyan moved his hand to lift the pistol up but with a flick of Drelan's wrist the pistol went flying out of Rhyan's hand with him looking even more confused.
Drelan - No weapons here. Rethadia is in enough distress.
Rhyan - If i'mso dangerous why did your ship draw me in here?
??? - Because you are unlike the other humans. You seek knowledge and understanding while they sought to salvage her.
Rhyan - Well, I am a doctor, so--
He was interrupted ot hear Drelan chuckling, who was now on his way to inspect Rhyan who looked out from his hazardous environment suit.
Drelan - No, it goes even deeper. We fascinate you and unlike the other humans on board you came out of genuine curiosity and a desire to help. You became a doctor because it is what you enjoy.
Rhyan - No surprises there, I am still confused though.
Drelan - Rethadia thinks you are worthy of joining our collective. Our minds will be combined and you can reach even greater heights than what you could before.
??? - He is different, he does not have the same improvements as the others. Why is that?
Rhyan - I never felt like I neded them.
??? - But your progress is was hindered by society.
Rhyan - I just don't see why I need to wire myself up to live my life. I lived on a world that lived simply, we didn't need cybernetics to live long and healthy lives.
??? - But outside this world you were held back. If you accept our offer, you can become far more wise tha nany human in your time.
Drelan - I still do not see why we should. Humans are chaotic and selfish I don't--
Rhyan - Yes.
Drelan stopped mid-sentenced and looked in Rhyan's direction with an odd look.
Drelan - You what?
Rhyan - I'm done with living around other humans. I became acrewmember on that ship to get away from the chaotic Human Republic. it's not the utopian life I dream of and I hate it!
??? - He is wise. Drelan, gude him t othe medical bay to begin the operation.
Drelan - Of course, you keep locse to Rethadia. The calmer she feels, the faster we can become spaceworthy again.
Drelan wrapped his arm over Rhyan's shoulder and guided him out of the room as the owman returned to caressing the ship's wall.