The inside of the tent had a single large table inside it. There were photographs scattered across it. All in black and white, they gave a close up look at the current state of the Dauntless and much to Vadir’s own surprise the ship had withstood the crash. The Welcome Wagon had all positioned themselves around the table with just enough room for Vadir to position himself opposite Commander Miller.
“So as you can see, the ship itself has shown no immediate signs of breaching. This means one of two things, the Mortans all perished or they’re waiting for us. Either way, the current perimeter should keep any stragglers from getting too far. We know their primary weakness, the main problem is if they decide to come out in numbers. Hopefully, before that can happen we will have gathered as much data as we can and rigged the ship to explode,” The Commander said. His eyes then fell on Vadir. “You said to the Navy Secretary that there hatches on the outside of the ship. Are you confident you can get us in?”
“I was a maintenance engineer, bypassing the manual lock should be easy. Convincing the ship that you’re not hostile could be tricky. But hopefully, it should recognise my clearance codes.”
“You mean there’s another one like it in there.”
“Yes, but the larger ship A.I. is usually used to handle security breaches, assist the pilots in minor course correction and manage the ship’s energy usage. The Archive, however, is what you need to get to if you want this data. I presume you have the means to extract the data you need?”
The Welcome Wagon all looked at him perplexed.
Vadir sighed, “The ship may have some discs in storage, we can use them to copy the data across.”
“That’s great and all, Vadir but how do you propose we use that data once we get it off the ship?” Commander Miller asked.
“Take me to Site 51, and I imagine that won’t be a problem,” Vadir said, resting his hand on the table.
“How do you know about that and why do you think this Site 51 will have what you need?” The Commander asked.
“I can’t lie, to better understand and communicate I traced the Doctor using my psionic power, it led to us sharing memories. I saw glimpses of an ancient alien-looking facility, she called it Site 51. It wasn’t her fault, she had no way of knowing I would learn so much in such a short time. It’s why I can speak your language so fluently now. Your language is fascinating, to say the least. ”
“Fine, but no more of that. It’s rude to invade someone’s thoughts.”
“I will refrain from it unless the situation dictates otherwise. My trace will help us better track the Mortans still scattered across the ship.”
The Commander looked over to the ship and pointed at it. “Speaking of, our primary goal is to destroy the ship. What can you tell us about its main power source?”
“It’s powered by opening a subspace aetherial tear within its core chamber. The psionic energy is then taken by the extractors, and stored in coolant stores before being converted into mass power. This is what allows the ship to travel through the Aether and powers more or less everything from weapons to the Psionic field generators. Since this kind of power is fairly unstable in large quantities. Measures exist that monitor the energy levels within the core chamber. If they go too high, the extractor vents are sealed and an internal protective field activates before the tear is sealed. This avoids internal damage to the core chamber.”
Vadir paused only to see if anything he had said so far was sinking in. Only the Commander seemed to follow what he was saying.
“So how does that help us destroy the ship?” the Commander asked.
“The self-destruction of a Kaskari vessel has two stages. The first part involves triggering a large tear in the core chamber, enough to induce ship-wide instability. Once a tear is large enough, the command is given to initiate the sealing without engaging any kind of protective field. The ship is then pulled apart, piece by piece and dumped into the Aether. An ignition trigger also activates in the extractors that detonate anything present within the stores.”
Once more the Welcome Wagon looked more flabbergasted than ever before. One of them was rubbing the bridge of his nose. “So it’s like some kind of black hole drive with a bit of an explosive finish?”
“It’s a similar technology. My people did uncover that on the other side of black holes there is a near-endless source of aetherial energy.”
The man in the exo-suit just rolled his eyes and shook his head. “You’re seriously not buying all this, are you, Commander?”
The Commander had been listening intently to Vadir. He soon straightened up. “All of you should know by now, none of what he’s said is new to us. It’s just unnerving to know how -”
“Outmatched we are, Commander,” another member said, folding their hands together.
“Yes, Gregory. Besides, I trust Vadir’s words. Maybe he can also help make sense of some stuff in Site 51 too. He may even know who built it.”
“That’s if we even make it out of this alive, Commander,” Jackson laughed.
“I’m still just an engineer. I don’t know everything. Just stories I’ve been told as I grew up. You didn’t know who built this Site 51?”
The Commander shook his head. “We only got this far by reverse-engineering the technology we could make sense of. The site itself was there when we found it, buried deep under the Nevada desert, abandoned, forgotten. A relic and a tomb. Someone… Something was watching us grow. But then they disappeared and left little trace of who they were and where they went.”
It couldn’t be them… could it? No, they went extinct, that’s what mother told us. The Nirikiri perished thousands of years ago. How far did they run to escape us? And what sinister machinations did they intend for these humans? He shuddered to think about it. Seeing his odd disposition, the Commander reeled them in. “Normally, I’d suggest we rest up and go in with more preparation. But we don’t have the luxury of time on our side. The longer we wait, the more of a threat any surviving Mortan becomes. Vadir, can you identify an access point from these photos? I realise they aren’t ideal but alas it’s the best we can do.”
Vadir reached across the table and scooped up the photos. He cycled through them, looking closely at each one. The detail was fine despite the colour. He stopped on one and pointed to it. “Here, though one of you may need to give me a little boost to reach the hatch itself.”
“If that’s what it takes,” The Commander said smiling. “Everyone, look alive. We’re entering Site Alpha. We can’t rely on the notion that everything is dead inside. For all we know, they could be humans, Kaskari and Mortans. Deal with them as you see fit. Time is of the essence, we get what we need and evacuate as soon as the self destruct is in place. This may well be a one-way trip but we’ve trained our whole lives for this opportunity. Let’s not disappoint our new friend here. He’s also the main priority. No one leaves him alone. Is that understood?”
“Yes, sir,” chorused the Welcome Wagon. Much to their surprise, even Vadir joined in their chant. As they all left the tent, Vadir paused to take in the ruined ship one more time. It was hard to believe that mere hours ago he had escaped from it. Now I’m heading back in. I don’t know what will remain of my friends. But if I can’t save them. Then I will most certainly, avenge them.