*Classified A1 - Eyes Only – Hardcopy Only - Do Not Duplicate*
By: Professor Barnes.
Location: Rim Mine W, C36 – Mineral extraction & research station.
To: Fleet Commander.
Location: Fleet Base ------.
Dear Admiral Clover,
I do not know if you remember me, we met at the Ambassadors reception on Helios two years ago. I was most impressed with the way you sang the ancient classic ‘Let It Go’ with your (rather attractive) lady friend, and I recall the conversation we had later out on the terrace. I’m afraid that the Rim Mine Arena Ball squad were in fact roundly defeated that season by the Navy squad, so you were right about that.
But I am sure that you know I am not writing to reminisce about old parties.
I have in the course of my research become curious about a gap in our current astronomical data. Although we know that here in the Centauri cluster there are 39 local galaxies, I have become fascinated by the idea of what may lie beyond the 39th galaxy.
I have put together a costing for a scout vessel to travel to the far edge of C39, and the Institute possess a cutting edge multi spectrum telescope which can easily be mounted on such a ship. All we would require is a few months for the journey and a small military/scientific team to go. Two of my best researchers are eager to go. The thing is, this mission would be a tiny fraction of the current military budget and would represent the kind of pure science that we simply do not do any more, owing to the pressure of competition with hostile empires. Who knows what benefits it may bring us?
I await your response with great interest,
Prof. Barnes PHD.
Re: Research Proposal
From: Admiral Clover.
To : Professor Barnes.
Dear Professor Barnes,
Of course I remember you from Helios. I remember most of that evening due to the fact that the rather attractive lady you mentioned is now my wife. I also followed the results of the Navy vs Miners Arena Ball match and seem to recall they were at one point in risk of losing to an inspired play from the miners in the last quarter of the match.
As regards your proposal, I have put it before my strategic analysts, and they agree it is a good idea. I have a keen young Lieutenant (Lft Algerton) who has volunteered to captain the mission, and the ship (Scout 452 – now the ‘Argonaut’) has been despatched to Rim Mine W for retrofitting in your local shipyards. Lft Algerton is bringing a small crew of three – engineer, tactical officer & communications technician. They are hand-picked and I am sure they will do us proud in this noble and unselfish venture.
I am sure we will be pleased to receive their findings.
Admiral Clover, DNC.
Outgoing Vessel Report
Operations command, Regional Fleet Base --------, C39.
Date : --/--/---- Time : 9:00am LOCAL TIME
Scientific Mission Vessel Scout 452 (Argonaut) departed for its mission to the Galactic Rim. Captain & crew in good spirits. Drive signature optimum for scout class vessel. Bon voyage and good luck Argonaut.
Incoming Vessel Report
Operations command, Regional Fleet Base --------, C39.
Date : --/--/---- (Argonaut departure + 1.3 month aprx) Time : 1.37pm LOCAL TIME
Scientific Mission Vessel Scout 452 (Argonaut) was picked up on scanners moving towards the main fleet body on its main drives which were showing a high distortion signature. COMMS attempted to hail the vessel repeatedly but received no response.
Ops Cmdr ---------- was informed and given that there was still time (Argonaut still passing outer Astros at this point) Cmdr ---------- gave the order to despatch a Corvette with Marine boarding party to hard dock and take command of the vessel.
2.50pm LOCAL TIME
COMMS receive incoming signal from Corvette 34786. Docking requested for quarantine section of orbital shipyard, and Medical Team for a single casualty.
3.28pm LOCAL TIME
Argonaut brought to dock at --------.
Marine Salvage Cpt ------, Regional Fleet Base --------, C39.
Date : --/--/---- (Argonaut return + 0 days)
My team and I matched velocities in Corvette 34786 with Argonaut in the outer system as she was passing by ------------. We went EVA with our equipment at 1.51pm and forced the airlock with hydraulics as the lock mechanism was not functioning. The vessel interior was dark and atmospheric pressure was only at 65% of normal. Temperature was 3 degrees Celsius.
I would like to state that although I and my team are all seasoned Marines with experience in warzones over the last 20 years, we were unprepared for the scenes which greeted us in the crew areas aboard Argonaut. Our suit lights picked out the black of dried blood all over walls, ceilings and every available surface. Flakes drifted through the air in the zero G. None of us wanted to open our helmets.
The navigation system was unresponsive, as were all other systems. I decided to send two men to the engineering deck to force a hard link with the drive unit, and detailed the rest to search out any survivors, although I did not expect to find any and one look at the faces of the men told me they thought the same thing. We quartered the two small decks and private rooms but found no-one, not even a corpse.
I then received a call-in from my men in the engineering deck. They requested me to come aft to see something ‘strange’. I noticed immediately on arriving that the ever present blood stopped abruptly in a spherical line around the drive unit area. Almost as though the drive had projected a sphere around itself somehow and prevented closer approach.
However, it was not just this which had attracted my men’s attention. They were contemplating a strange metal ‘igloo’ structure which had been welded to the deck beside the engine, and partly to the drive itself. And well inside the strange ‘sphere’ of bloodlessness.
We applied a multi-meter scanner to the side of the ‘igloo’ and it showed a faint life-sign from within. Cpl ------ took out a cutter and began to open the structure. We were all doubly glad we had kept our helmets shut as the opening revealed a skeletal figure floating in the space within, surrounded by detritus and empty food packets. A DNA scan revealed that the figure was the Engineer Donnell, and so we quickly got an IV into him and sent him off to the Corvettes’ sickbay. At no point did he regain consciousness.
Having gaining access to the ‘igloo’ we discovered how the drive had remained functional – the hard line connection to the main systems had been severed with a fusion blade, and a new, jerry rigged control box patched directly onto the drive. Only an Engineer could have done it and made it work.
In conclusion, this was the only non-standard alteration we found to the vessel. We shut down the drive and our corvette took Argonaut in tow. Despite the ‘décor’, no other equipment or fittings showed any sign of damage.
Forensic report on Scout 452 ‘Argonaut’ Scout Class Vessel.
Forensic Sciences Unit, Regional Fleet Base --------, C39.
Date : --/--/---- (Argonaut return + 10 days)
Crew: 6 dead, No survivors.
Vessel: Undamaged except for severe engine degradation (see salvage report), and Data Core completely unrecoverable (see IT report).
We can say with precision that of the 6 crew embarked aboard ‘Argonaut’, all are deceased.
Analysis (DNA & spectroscopic) of the biological matter coating the interior of ‘Argonaut’ reveals it to be a molecular melange of clothing and bodily matter from all the other crew members. Based on the homogenous and particulate nature of the coating, we can surmise that death for the 5 crew members was instantaneous, and we are 99% sure that Engineer Donnell was innocent of any wrongdoing. Regrettably, Engineer Donnell passed away in the planetside Mercy Hospital on ------- ,C39 at (Argonaut return + 3 days) without regaining consciousness.
Forensic IT report of ‘Argonaut’ Data Cores:
Argonauts’ Data Core and the Institute Telescope Data Core show no sign of tampering, yet are completely blank. The cores were deep trawled by our AI and it found nothing but binary code static. If this ‘static’ represents the previous contents of the cores, then it is as thoroughly mixed as ‘water with water’, according to our Senior Analyst -------. In addition, analysis of the reinforced structure of Argonaut shows no unusual residue of either fundamental particles or unusual atomic polarity alignments, which could have accounted for the Cores being scrambled by means of esoteric weapons systems of unknown capacities.
If this startling effect is a result of a virus, again our AI could find no trace of its passing. We as a team are disturbed by our inability to understand this and formally request more time to study the problem.
Forensic Pathologists Report:
Subject : Jack Donnell, Engineer, Scout 452 ‘Argonaut’
Date :--/--/---- (Argonaut return + 4 days)
Subject is a white male aged 37 years. Weight 7.5 stones (malnourished). Height 5’11”. White hair
(personal Datachip shows brown at last medical 3 months ago), green eyes.
Blood type O. DNA code (file attached & identity confirmed).
Post-mortem Nano-Neural Trawl shows evidence of severe psychological trauma.
Blood work shows no toxins and very high levels of stress hormones.
No physical injuries/diseases/fatal conditions.
Cause of Death: Heart Failure.
Police Report, Urban Development --------, C39
Date: --/--/---- (Argonaut return + 6 days)
Officers of Local Police Department --------- were called to Block 8 of the urban development following reports of a body in the street at approximately 10.20pm local time. The victim appeared to have fallen from height. The victims’ Datachip was interrogated by handheld unit at the scene and his identity revealed as Medical Orderly Evan Lortam, employed at the Mercy Hospital.
The victims’ address was Voreno Tower, directly underneath which he was found. Officers forced an entry into his apartment on the 16th floor and found it to be undisturbed. The door to the balcony was open and a scan revealed only the victims fingerprints. A handwritten note was found in which the victim confessed to his unpatriotic thoughts, declaring that the Empire was corrupt and that he could not stand to live in it any longer.
Since no signs of a struggle were found, the Officers sealed the apartment following a search during which items of pornographic material and illegal narcotics were also found.
Coroners Court Report,
Urban Development --------, C39
Date: --/--/---- (Argonaut return + 18 days)
Untimely Death of Evan Lortam.
The court finds that the untimely death of Evan Lortam owed to his disturbed state of mind based on the evidence of his unhealthy lifestyle and the dead mans own testimony. (See attached note & police report).
1. Funding Instruction
From: C in C, Empire Security.
To: Finance Minister, Empire Commerce Bureau
The funding level for Warp Drive Research is to be increased by 200% from the date of receipt of this communiqué. I must stress that this matter is considered most important and sensitive and your compliance and discretion are expected.
Rear-Admiral Warren, DSC, DSO & Bar.
2. Colony Information Department
From: Astronomy Dept, Fleet HQ.
To: Colony Planning Committee
We are writing to inform you that any settlements in the eastern side of C39 would be very ill advised. A Super Giant Star is decaying in that area of the C39 galaxy and will result in a powerful Gamma Ray burst within the next 100+/- years. I need not remind you of the effect this would have on inhabited worlds.
*End of Supplemental Documents*
*Classified A1 - Eyes Only – Hardcopy Only - Do Not Duplicate*
Maria walked slowly along the corridor to the next apartment. She was tired already and there were three hours yet to go in her shift, and when you are an immigrant trying to earn your citizenship you work as hard as you can and you don’t cross the boss, so although she wanted a break from cleaning she didn’t dare take one. In any case, soon she would be at home and would put her feet up for the evening, so she approached the next door without much annoyance.
The door unlocked cleanly and easily, as did all the locks in this building. Voreno Towers was a new build, put in during the last colony upgrade, and mainly housed medical staff from Mercy Hospital, so it was well cared for and maintained. This apartment though, Maria was pleased to see, was empty. So it looked like she would get a break after all. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to see if there was something to do. She would still get a break anyway, as she was allotted 30 minutes to clean an apartment. The kitchen, balcony and main living area were already clean, so she checked the bedroom. That was ok as well – this was looking good she thought – half an hour on the balcony in the sun!
Just to be sure though, she looked in the bathroom. Again, all ok but the cistern and fall pipe behind the toilet bowl could do with a quick dusting. She did the cistern, and knelt down to get the fall pipe behind the bowl. She saw a small corner of paper poking out down there – you wouldn’t even see it if you were standing up. She pulled it out and it emerged, a small square of folded paper. Writing was visible on the inside. She unfolded it and read –
‘I hope someone finds this. I was detailed to care for the man from the ship. I was with him when he died. I heard that they said he never awoke but he did. He spoke to me. He grabbed my tunic with such strength for someone so weak, and my god his eyes! He gasped two words – “…the…hidden…”. I think they must have bugged the ward, because I saw them in the street when I came home tonight. They are watching my apartment. I’m afraid.’
This story was submitted by James Ingham for the AE Stories Event. Find Details on sending your own Story here.