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“You seem lost in thought.”
Shoshana wasn't wrong. I had been given a lot to think about. Not by anyone but by the things I had seen and of course what I was starting to realise about why the Thargoids had returned. What I'd seen?
As soon as Sugar had left I'd not been far behind. The Orca “Anthem” had not taken long to reach Maia, fitting the Corrosive Resistant Cargo Rack had taken longer. The modular construction of the modern ships made it easier than it had been in the past. Easier sure but still time consuming, even with the help of a couple local mechanics.
Blasting into the designated system I let the Orca hug the star as it filled up it's fuel tank. As I listened to the glug, glug of the hydrogen flowing through the fuel scoop I was happy to see a wing beacon glowing on the scanner. A quick glance to the scanners left showed me nothing. Whoever it was and whatever they were flying had some how been blocked.
Tank full I pushed the throttle forward till it wouldn't go and further. At around 150ls from the target planet I hit 75% power and watched the speed tumble down.
“When you get here just land beside me and we'll get this done.” The mystery man said as I entered orbit. I didn't try to hit orbital cruise straight away, we were going way to fast, so I flew over the wing beacon and when I was a couple hundred beyond did a 180 flip and headed back. Once the distance said 120km I pushed the nose down and a few seconds later entered cruise. Blam, I exited that stage of the process a little earlier than I liked and found myself 10km out. Easing the stick a little more down I got my first glimpse of this Thargoid structure. Like a whirlpool the vortex like shapes pulled my eyes to the large central spire and the solid looking mass below it. I had been to a few other sites but this one seemed bigger. As I cleared the last inner ring that seemed to form a wall the enormity of the whole site was reinforced. I dropped the landing gear and started hunting for a place to drop down as close as I could to the menacing Corvette that was already there. It took a little while but eventually Anthems gear struck solid ground or solid something at least.
“Once you are in your SRV follow me.” My anonymous companion announced.
As the bright yellow SRV I was in bounced onto the surface of the planet, I received more comms. “Have you ever been inside one of these structures Aitken?”
“No, I've scouted the perimeter of a few but never been inside.” I answered truthfully. More interested in the fact that my mysterious companion knew my name. It appeared he wished to remain anonymous, so I chose just to let that be.
“Don't tell me you're one of these space hippies that believes we can be friends with the 'Goids'?”
“Friends? Probably not. I usually don't like attacking something until it proves hostile to me. Biting off more than I can chew isn't a life goal of mine.”
“Well that's one of the reasons we're here for. Let's get this stuff and help out the guys with high foreheads to give us something useful to hit back with. Stick close behind me until I say otherwise.” With that his SRV shot off toward the structure. Mashing the throttle I hoped to keep up with him. My mystery partner was a good driver, I struggled a little but did manage to keep a respectable distance from him.
We drove up to what looked like a wall, like two hands with interlaced fingers pulling apart a door opened and in we drove.
“Handy objects this Artifact and Probe but they are eating away at this SRV. We take a left once we clear this slope. Take the first right which will take you down another slope and get the Link. I'll meet you in the main chamber. Don't take too long as I don't want to leave any of this things behind.”
We were nearly at my turn off as he finished his instructions. Again I didn't need to ask any questions and was glad that I had watched a documentary on the Thargoid Structures and knew what to expect.
Once down the slope and in the small chamber I headed straight for the portal in front of me. Right on cue the link dropped down, I'm sure the Links in the other portals did but I was concentrating on the one before me.
Blam, blam blam, blam and the Link dropped to the floor as the Plasma Repeaters did their thing. Cargo Hatch open I drove over it and listened as it was scooped in to the cargo rack in the SRV. A quick three point turn and I was heading back up the ramp. As I negotiated the ramp and turn, heading toward the main chamber I was struck by beauty of the structure around me. It looked organic, which fitted in with the stories I had heard about the 'Goids. What exactly the pulses of light running through what looked like tubes, I could only guess. Veins? And the light was Thargoid blood or electrical nerve impulses carrying signals of who knew what? I speculated that if they were electrical signals being sent to a brain, if it even had one, the pulses were of pain. It looked to me like the giant alien creation was dying or at the very least it was ill. Then again I was no expert in biology and this could be it's normal state.
“Down here.” An impatient voice snapped as I drew alongside the main chambers entrance. “Head toward the center of the room and wait by the 'machine'.”
I ignored everything that was strewn around, just as I had done in the smaller room. I was transfixed by the huge object hanging from the ceiling. I looked like a massive drilling head with each bit glowing with red lights. Below the three glowing objects were what looked like bathing pools, as I drew near a holographic image of a 'Goid object swam into view.
“Get a little closer and look up.” The Vette pilot instructed. For the looking up I activated the turret mode. Since picking up the Link the corrosive technology had been interfering with the HUD and other systems. The turret was affect also but to a lesser degree. Then all thoughts of these problems stopped in my head.
“What the.....” I stammered out as a spectacular light show started above me. A thin trail of lights spiraled their way through the gaps in the machine, the band getting thicker as they traveled in a swirling pattern to the edge of the vast chamber.
“I had to let you see that. Speculation is that it's some kind of star map. Of what we don't know but they'll work it out. What you think, you might hit on something we haven't considered.”
“Yeah I can see the map idea being appealing. Obviously not this galaxy, maybe it is, dunno. A way of conveying a message maybe?” I was still in awe as the points of light started to fade.
“Yeah we had that one too. Well the boffins can try and crack it if it is a code. Come on lets get out of here before these things eat my ride.” With that the other Scarab started heading back the way we had came. Before we got back to the ships I did have one more thought on the light show.
“Thargoid art?” I was surprised by the response.
“Yeah. Won't that be a kick in the pants for the eggheads. Checking all the galaxies, trying to cipher out a code and in the end it's just a 'Goids doddle.”
I was happy to get back to the Orca, the interior of the structure had a strange feeling to it. It could just have been my thoughts on it dying or having an illness, then again I had heard reports that they were growing so what the hell did I know. I couldn't pinpoint were the feeling was coming from, it certainly hadn't come from the multiple Scavengers that were in and around it. What they were doing was anybodies guess but if you left them alone, they did the same right back. Whatever it was making me feel uneasy I'd figure it out later.
“I'm heading for Palins' to fit another CRCR. Once I have that done I'll meet you in front of Obsidian Orbital and we'll get the transfer done.”
Before I could reply the Fderal Corvette started to rise, the undercarriage gracefully folding into the ship and with an agile that belonged to a smaller ship it power toward open space. No matter it's elegant movement it still had terrible range, less than half of the Orca I stood in. I had time to make coffee, pour it into a zero-g mug and still beat the Vette to Maia.
Beat it I did but not by as much as I had anticipated. I had to add in a few extra jumps to lose an unwanted guest that started to tail me. I'm not saying the Python was waiting for me but if it had managed to just stumble upon me in that area I hope he had a ticket for the Wyrd Lottery. I past Maia a couple of times then doubled back using different systems each time. I still wasn't one hundred percent sure if I had shaken him when I saw the bright blue star Maia, so I headed for deep space in system so I had time to run if I had to.
“A heads up for you. I'm heading deeper into Maia. Once your in system we'll wing up and then you can home in on my beacon.” I sent the message to the Vette on a secure channel and settled in for the haul.
“Roger. Do we have a problem?”
“Nope. Just making sure it stays that way.” I replied. A wing request came in as the answer. About 7,000ly out I closed the throttle and dropped to normal space, activated the Orcas beacon and waited.
I had just finished another cup of coffee when I heard the sound of a ship exiting supercruise. A glance at the scanner showed a blue rectangle so I relaxed a little. The transfer went without a hitch. The Vette jumped out heading for who knows where and I returned to The Ring.
“So what's eating at you?” Shoshana said as a follow up.
“This so called 'Goid War.” As well as musing on my recent mission I had also been reading through the Galnet. 'Attacks in the Pleiades' the headlines screamed. 'No need to panic' the Powers and Aegis shouted back. Reports about INRA bases being found and disapproval at their methods but it all seemed scripted. Following the predictable path of a propaganda holo on Gal-Holovision. I voiced my thoughts to Shoshana. An eyebrow arched from the opposite side of the table.
“It could be that they are just using unusual tactics, something we haven't seen before or lulling us into a false sense of security. I don't think they'll succeed with that last one if that's their plan.”
“Nah.” I answered although one of the things she said did get my attention. “Unusual.” I murmured. “Or something they have seen before.”
“I've seen that expression before. What wild idea do you have now”
“It's speculated that they have a hive mind. Thoughts instantly shared, maybe not between them all but certainly a Queen or whatever is central control.” Shoshana nodded, it was the kind of thing most people where talking about. “Ok so if that the case when INRA were experimenting on the captured 'Goids do you think the dying thoughts of those were sent back.”
“If that was the case then they would have known that the attack was coming.”
“Not necessarily.” I replied as the idea grew in my mind. “It was in a cage or a pit, something. It only knew that it was being held captive, injected or fed something, no idea what it was so that info would not have gotten back.”
“Alright I'll give you that one. Where's this leading too?”
“Well, we know that INRA were experimenting on them, except to them it was just humans. So if we can experiment on them and make a super weapon whats stopping them from trying to do the same to us?” I stood up and started walking toward the the hanger.
“Nothing I guess.” Sho answered the question. “Where are you going? And what are you up to?”
“Hangar. There have to be survivors from the Aegis ships being destroyed. I hope I'm wrong but if not I'm going to save some people from being experiment subjects.”
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