“That’s what concerns us the most, you know? Who built her? And why did they crash in Arizona?” the second who spoke with a slight southern drawl was a man with jet black defiantly wavy hair and obvious Italian features. He looked everything like he could have been a mobster in his past life, however, one look at his rectangular glasses, narrow shoulders, and slight build made the initial impression seem impossible.
With the help of a crane the aircraft was lowered to the floor from the back of the truck. The dust had all been blown off in the ride and the hull gleamed pure white. There were a few scorched and corroded areas at the front nose and along the base but otherwise it was alabaster. The front windows gleamed as scratch-less mirrors. The only place the dirt still was present was jammed into the engines in the small wings on the two sides.
“I just want to get inside her.” The lady stated excitedly.
Her companion cocked his eyebrow at her verbiage, but he decided to let it go this time. “It’ll be interesting I’m sure, but it has got to be searched first so we don't end up with some nasty self-destruct mechanism or booby trapped or maybe just collapse and crush--”
“Thank you, Mr. Sunshine.” she replied in annoyance.
While the vessel was settled into the hangar, Major O’Dell stood in an adjacent meeting room. The major had changed into combat fatigues and stood before a room of a five similarly outfitted airmen.
“We will enter the door on the left side of the vessel. It will be pried open by the engineers using the hydraulic claw. On entering, secure the parameter and…” He paused before he continued; drilling the last phrase into their minds, “don’t touch anything. Are there any questions?”
The room echoed with a resonating, “No sir.” The airmen went to the armory to gear up. Each grabbed a P90, ammunition, a handgun, as well as non-lethal weapons such as smoke grenades, and tasers.
Kevin entered the armory. Since he was wearing his class A's it was obvious he was not part of the operation, “Ah! Sir, we’re ready when you are…” He paused when he noticed him loading darts into an air gun, “…are, are you expecting to find something alive in there?” he said speaking incredulously.
“If the ship survived, it wouldn’t be outside of reason to assume the crew did?”
“I guess so, but if there were survivors, wouldn’t they have tried to communicate by now?”
“That’s what concerns the guys up the ladder. We have no information, anything could be in there. That is why they placed it at the farthest out hangar, so that if it is giant box of explosives it hopefully will not harm the rest of the base.”
“Hmm…” his face expressed concern. “Well I came to give you the camera for your helmet.” he paused then said, “Good luck Mac.” Then as if a new thought crossed his mind, he said cheerfully, “Well, see you later!”
The major tied his boots shaking his head. 'In a hurricane that kid would comment on the cool summer breeze.'
“Mac” as Kevin called him was a reference to his middle name, Mackenzie, he had gotten it back when he was a scoutmaster in Florida. The major as a kid always hated his middle name, but the nickname had grown on him. Of course only Kevin ever used it, and was probably the only one who knew him by the nickname on base.
Mac and his squad arrived in the hangar, approaching with weapons at ready. There were two technicians prepared to operate the hydraulic claw. The airmen advanced from the back of the ship and kept close to the side of the vessel. The two engineers jammed the contraption into a hairline crack on the side of the ship. When the major gave the cue, one of them turned on a motor and the contraption in the crack began to come apart like a crescent wrench, pushing the crack wider. Once it was wide enough for a hand the two technicians departed and two of the airmen placed their hands in the gap and pulled. The door slid open easily and two soldiers came behind and raised their weapons into the darkness shining their lights. One of them gestured to the major that he did not see any threats. When the major gave permission, all but two of the airmen entered in pairs. The remaining would be the rear guard. The first room they entered seemed to be a bridge.
As they entered they all reeled from the stench. No one knew what the smell was until one of them walked to the head of the cockpit. “They had a rough ride.” the airman said shining his light towards the two, small, crumpled male corpses lying on top of what were probably the flying controls in the very front of the vessel.
The major walked from where he was studying another console in the middle of the room and looked them over. “We have two corpses here. Middle aged males; small only about, what, hundred-fifty centimetres tall? They appear to have been thrown against the front windows, I assume a result of the crash.” Mac buzzed over the radio.
Sergeant Cassidy replied, “We’ll send some medics to pick them up.”
“They are going to want masks, they have started to decay.”
Kevin who was standing next to Cassidy watching the footage grimaced, “Gross!”
Kevin glanced at Cassidy and asked, “Are you alright? You‘re looking a little green. Is it the motion of the camera or decaying matter? Of course it could be that sausage in the mess hall, it seemed a little under cooked to me.”
Cassidy put a finger telling him to stop and hurried out of the room saying he had forgotten something in the lab. Kevin smiled mischievously as he took Cassidy’s more comfortable seat in front of the monitor.
They found a door at the back of the room. “It looks like we’ll need the hydraulics again.” the major grabbed his radio. He was about to call for the engineers when he heard a sliding sound and noticed everything become brighter as the room was filled with a sound like a yawn of a large animal. He looked down at the controls in front of him and they were all coming to life.
He whirled around to see the once closed door open and all the lights on, “Who touched what?!” the major hissed as he scooted to the side and against the wall. All the airmen were lined along the wall, weapons raised to the open door.
“Sir, I think it was me, I walked by and it all just came on.” one of the airmen said.
They remained still, not breathing. The major gave the order to enter with caution. They entered in and quickly checked all entrances. The room appeared to be a commodities area. It was about seven metres long and five metres wide. There was a table and chairs to the left, and behind those was a group of comfortable looking seats next to a large cabinet in the left wall. There were also more cabinets set into the walls wherever they could fit. On the right there were three more doors. The major ordered a few airmen to search those. The rest checked around looking for any other possible exits. O’Dell nudged the furniture with his boot and noted how they seemed unharmed and were built directly into the floor.
An airman crept over to him, “Uh, sir, I think you should see this.” he whispered.
By his tone the major could tell his subordinate was unsure about what he found. The middle door on the wall opened for them and they walked in. The other two airmen nodded down to a bed set into the wall. The body short boy, probably in his early teens, lay on the bed looking as though he was sleeping. The major glanced up at the airmen's unbelieving faces than stepped closer and dropped on one knee. He bent his head down to hear something. He heard a breath.
The major turned to the airman, “Get the medics, he’s alive.”
“Yes sir!” The airman hurried out.
The major turned back to the boy. How could he have survived? He asked himself.
A doctor and nurse came in quickly with a crash cart and checked him for injuries.
“He seems to be fine, no broken bones from what I can tell, probably a concussion though.” the doctor said. “Alright, let’s get him moved!”
In the Vesya Principality on the humid planet Sepho, The Royal Navy Interstellar Control Centre was packed with personnel of various fields. The Yasha would be arriving any moment now. In another room a large screen was ready to show the ship enter into orbit and land. Generals from various imperial nations were present and the mood was very jubilant.
One of the generals stood and proposed a toast, “I dedicate this praise not only to the Yasha project, but also to the astounding cooperation we have had to make it possible. We will surely overcome our enemies. The Amori Republic has been greatly endowed with your trust, trust that has not been misplaced.
“Also I toast to Vesya Principality,” he said tilting his head to the much older Vesyan general, “May your prince’s line never fail.” The other general nodded in thanks.
And finally,” he cleared his throat and placed an extra amount of respect into his voice, “to the one person who unites all, the glorious Nerín! For whose honour we shall fight to our deaths!”
A cheer erupted after the last phrase till it was silenced when an officer rushed in. “The Yasha will be approaching momentarily.”
The generals took there seats and watched the screen as the final timer started up. The room was quiet up until the timer ran out. Nothing happened, there was no ship. The silence hung ominously for what seemed like an eternity. The Amori general rushed out of the room, and then all the others hastened to contact their governments. When the Amori general made it to the control centre he saw the room in chaos, everyone was shouting orders and scans were being run. Ships were being sent out to search. There was no sign of the Yasha. She simply was not there.
The Amori general looked out into the distance. He would be sent to Ramala, the Nerín will more then likely call for all her generals. It would be a very unhappy meeting with the empress.
With the craft being completely secured, the technicians now had full range of the vessel and were buzzing around it like an opened hive. The operations were being spearheaded by the skinny Italian technician and the swarthy Asian engineer. The latter had lost her awestruck expression; instead her face was locked in fierce concentration. She sat hunched over the control console in the middle of the bridge. It had a rather comfortable chair, now cleansed of blood and viscera and the controls seemed to be no more complicated than most equipment she worked with. But what frustrated her was that everything was in an unknown script. The characters were smooth and tended to be rounded and probably would be seen as quite elegant, if she could read it.
She was starting to recognize some of the symbols and she had counted them all, one-hundred, with dozens more that looked to be an entirely different script which appeared rarely. Many of them were no different from another but for a simple added line, dot, or curl. She was no language master; but growing up in an immigrant family she spoke Vietnamese more often than English as a girl so she posited that perhaps this language, like Vietnamese, has marks and dashes to change the sound of a letter slightly, that was her best guess anyway.
She did admire how the controls were not just made for functionality but also for beauty and comfort. The various controls had colourful glowing letters, probably to help the user to quickly identify a function and would change colours to get the user’s attention The southern technician entered and inquired “How is Ahn doing on her studies?”
She was annoyed how he often used her last name in the third person when talking to her, and he probably new that. She replied somewhat saucily, “How is Picini doing, did you have a nap?”
“I’ll have y’ know, I’ve been working hard.” he retorted.
“And what wonderful discovery did you make when you were napping- I mean working?”
“I am tracking a radioactive signal.” He answered casually.
She bolted up, “What radioactive signal?!”
“Chill! I just had a hunch that it might detect this thing’s energy source. It appears to have some sort of nuclear marker,”
“That is impossible; they screened this place for radiation.”
“Yeah they did but they were looking for radiation at dangerous levels. When I entered the ship I noticed that the radiation was higher in here than it is in the hangar. It’s not much but it gets higher in some places than in others. I‘m hoping this will help me find the power source.”
She stood up and took the small black box and looked at the needle on the face. She walked to the back of the room and through the door to the commodities area.
“What do y‘ think you‘re doing?” Picini asked indignantly.
“On one of the displays it showed diagrams. It looked like veins running through a transparent image of the ship. I assume they are power conduits, and if I am right they come together back here.”
The needle continued to slightly rise as she approached the back of the ship till she stopped at the very back wall. She ran her hands down it.
“What‘re you trying to do?”
“One of the veins ran down to this area, I assume to a key pad or a door.” She pressed a section of the wall in a little and it popped forward revealing a key pad of sorts. “These are numbers; I was starting to recognize some of them. This spiral with a diagonal line above it is a zero. It seems to be used as a place holder as in Arabic numerals. They also have a decimal system; I was starting to recognize that too. There appears to be twelve different digits, each one a modified letter with a little horizontal dash above them connecting one number to the next, so that would explain this key board.”
“That’s nice, I’m sure, but it obviously requires a combination.”
Annoyed with his playing down of her discovery, she pointed out another thing, “But according to these reading the energy source should be right behind this panel.” She smiled and cocked her head proudly.
“Then I’d best go report our findings to the General.”
Ahn kicked herself mentally how she had given an excuse for him to get out of work and give his own story. Yes she did purloin his Geiger counter to make the discovery but he would be sure to say little of what she did. Oh well, she thought to herself, I’ll take credit next time.