Chapter 31: Lost In TIme
L4 Lagrangian point of the Sun-Jupiter system
The passcodes supplied by Prince Uldren would only allow entry to a single ship, so the fireteam requisitioned a small troop carrier from the Reef Navy. There was some talk about sending a small SpecOps team along with the guardians to ensure that they didn’t steal any valuable secrets from the derelict ship. It was top-secret property of the Awoken, after all. The idea was quickly dispelled, as those in the know expected any incursion on to that ship to be suicide.
The Corsair escort had broken off some time ago, leaving a few short words of luck in their wake. Telemica didn’t find them comforting in the slightest, but was happy to be out from under Awoken scrutiny all the same. She sat in the small troop bay going over her equipment again and again to occupy her mind.
Vatyr sat calmly at the controls of the sluggish vessel. His hands danced aimlessly along the control interfaces, not really doing anything but making sure that things were still working as they had been seconds prior. Autopilot: still on. Engines: not about to explode. Cabin: not about to vent into space. Running lights: still blinking. There was nothing out there to even gauge relative speed, leaving him alone in his head to decompress everything that had just happened to him.
Arrenn simply went to sleep once they were on their way, stretching oddly across some seats that lined the trooper bay wall. The other two envied his calm detachment.
A light on the comms panel blinked yellow a few times, and then green before going dark again. The ship’s computer has shaken hands with the automated sentries hanging somewhere in the black, and been given leave to proceed. Chances are if anything had gone wrong with that part, they’d be dead before knowing it.
1143 Odysseus rolled silently in space, but it took hours of approach before the ship came into view. Rather, the absence of the ship came into view. The massive ovoid vessel was nearly a kilometer from stem to stern, but was so black it was almost darker than the backdrop of deep space. The ship didn’t have any lights or markings of any kind, making its presence more than a little intimidating.
“Transmatting on or off that ship will be impossible. The hull plating is designed to absorb all electromagnetic radiation, among a few other things. The provided data indicates that there is a large docking bay on the bow of the ship,” informed Squire over the shuttle’s internal speakers.
“Fantastic. Does the provided data also mention that?” Vatyr pointed out the window at an almost imperceptible oddity just off the derelict’s hull. Looking like a perfectly clear and still pool of water, it was as if the black derelict was surrounded by a nearly invisible barrier. Then, as if someone had dropped a small stone into the pool, ripples began traveling along its surface and through the ship itself. More ripples propagated and became more violent as minutes passed until the ship was completely enveloped by a white-hot cataclysm.
“Squire, what are we seeing?” asked Telemica softly; as if a raised voice would send the fury they were seeing upon them next.
Squire’s tone was not unlike that of a professor. “Whatever mechanism was created to bend the universe around this ship has been on an overload cycle since The Collapse. Every distortion you see is a different spacetime continuum overlapping and colliding with another. It causes a chain reaction within the 4th dimension until the 5th dimension is breached. You are seeing the future starlight of all possible futures compounded on each other.”
External radiation and heat warnings began sounding off. Brilliance surged and crashed around the derelict so brightly and fiercely that Vatyr began moving the ship back, fearful that the small star would tear the asteroid apart.
Just as it seemed as if the chaos before them would reach a crescendo, it simply stopped. Squire hummed in understanding, which earned him a glare from the titan. “Deepest apologies, my lady. I hypothesized that a form of cosmic censorship would cause the reaction to cease. Otherwise such a thing would have caused our universe to collapse on quantum level ages ago.”
Vatyr rubbed his face in exasperation. “OK. The universe ending or not, we still need to board that damned ship. How do we do that?”
“I’ve built a virtual model of the reaction and it seems as if it all happens on very strict intervals. By my estimations the reaction should occur every 52 minutes and 42 seconds.”
After sitting through the universe-ending violence nearly a dozen times, Squire was proven correct. The shuttle’s sensors were nothing to write home about, but after launching a few probes and some creative math by the ghosts, Warden compiled a reasonably accurate layout of the ship’s interior, which now hung holographically in the troop bay. The egg-shaped ship was laid bare in orange light. Most of the ship was empty frame, no doubt once destined to be filled with refugees. For some reason or another, there was no evidence that anyone had been aboard when the ship attempted its jump.
At the centre of the ship was a gigantic engineering section. Scans showed that this was where a number of Vex had set up shop. The engines themselves were built around a device that the team couldn’t quite make out but was no doubt the spacetime-manipulation matrix. The Vex had encased it in a large conflux in an attempt to interface with it. Every time the device went into its overload cycle, all the Vex units on board ceased to exist, but were quickly replaced by other units through a portal next to the conflux. Dozens seem to mill about the space.
“They must be trying to stop the reaction and take control of the ship. No doubt it would be a useful asset for them,” noted Glitch.
“Let’s say we manage to make it on to the ship, get to engineering and eliminate the Vex threat. Then what? I still don’t understand what we’re doing here or how this thing helps us get Solas back.” inquired Telemica. At this point, this all felt like a half-planned suicide mission with no real victory conditions.
Arrenn actually taking control of a conversation had simply never happened before, so Telemica’s surprise when he started talking from his seat was no surprise to Vatyr. “I’ve studied Vex technology and how it interfaces with our own. I’ll use a modified frontier unit to take control of the conflux, scan the network for Solas’ unique guardian signature and summon him through the transfer gate they’ve built.” he said in his usual deadpan tone.
Frontier units were the all-in-one stations that guardians used when claiming new territory. The first use of one was on the Moon, and it could still be found at the Archer’s Line accelerator. It was rugged, compact, multipurpose and powerful, designed to effectively expanding the influence of guardian logistical networks. Arrenn pointed to a frontier unit tucked into the small cargo compartment. “I’ve modified this one for our purposes using a Vex chronospanner as an I/O bridge. Assuming there isn’t more than one guardian floating around their web, finding him and pulling him out should be a simple task.”
“You can do that quickly enough that we have time to get out of there before reality explodes around us?” asked Telemica. All she got from Arrenn was a nod.
“This is the largest stable conflux I know about. The larger and more powerful the conflux, the better the chance we have to finding Solas. Also, since the ship is constantly being wiped clean, there’s no heavy support like minotaurs or a hydra.” quantified Vatyr.
“This is crazy, even for us,” mused Telemica.
“I think we passed crazy quite some time ago. Since when have you been afraid of a little crazy?”
Telemica’s belly laugh seemed to blast the pall of dread that had soaked into the shuttle’s walls. “Afraid? This will make a fantastic tale to tell! I can’t wait!”
“We should move into position near the docking bay. We’ll need to board the ship as quickly as possible.” noted Arrenn as he took the controls and activated the maneuvering thrusters. His new assertiveness warranted a raised eyebrow to pass between the hunter and titan, but the warlock was not wrong. Time was a real enemy here, as it often was when dealing with the Vex.