Coren was examining log data. It had been coming in through the night. Turning from computer screens, he was writing down numbers and running calculations on input pads. It didn’t take long for results to start streaming in.
“I think we have a live one here!” Coren was excited. “Open up comm. Channels.” He turned towards the communications officer.
Brimley practically jumped out of bed. He was not a deep sleeper and the sudden ringing phone startled him. Clearing his throat, he reached to the night stand and picked up the receiver.
“Hello”, he still sounded a bit hoarse and not quite awake.
Sarah was already up and could hear a muffled voice through the floor. It was hard to sleep these days. Again she was thinking about Zee and his jump next week. How did her baby grow up so fast? Only yesterday he was still a child.
Lilly, had just days before left for secondary school on the other side of Minas Terra. She decided to not join fleet academy. Sarah was glad for this. Instead, she was pursuing a degree in teaching primary school. She loved children and especially wanted to work with students whose parents were in the fleet and often deployed away from home for long periods of time.
The sound of Brimley’s voice through the floor interrupted her thoughts.
“Third contact? Are you sure?” Brimley was now very much awake.
Third contact meant a third Safe Access Pod from Teller Station was phoning home. The first two had signaled within days of each other only three weeks prior.
After a year had passed in the destruction of Teller Station, it was assumed the pods were destroyed with everything else, since no signal had been detected in all that time. But now, nine years later, they were starting to turn up intact.
Coren continued to brief Brimley, “Sometime in the night, long range sensors picked up five separate broadcasts from Teller Pod 529. The transmissions were generated just over an hour apart then stopped.”
“Do we know what’s in that pod?” Brimley asked.
“No”, responded Coren. “The log entries indicate that after the pod was sealed shut, content data was just being entered, but then abruptly stopped. The timestamp corresponds with the time of explosion that was logged during the initial attack on the station, about four hours before the wave hit. My guess is everyone in Safe Access was killed in that explosion which might explain why the contents were never entered in the logs.”
“That seems a reasonable guess”, agreed Brimley.
“Are you ready for plot points sir?” Coren asked.
“Yes, give them to me.” Brimley had pen in hand and paper, ready to write.
“Point one,” he began. For the next several minutes, numbers were read over the phone. Brimley was scribbling everything down. “It stops there”, Coren finished.
“Ok, hold for a moment. I’m going to my navigation map now.” Brimley opened the map across his desk. Grabbing a ruler and a compass, he began to work out the plot points. It was a bit old school but he wasn’t in the office with all his fancy equipment. And sometimes, he actually preferred the more manual way of doing things.
“You said these points were spread out just over an hour each?”
“Okay, that puts them all together somewhere between five and five and half hours. How long ago were the last transmissions?”
Coren was looking at the log files. “Last transmission was at 0400 hours.” He looked at his watch. It was now six in the morning. “Two hours ago.”
Brimley was deep in thought.
“Sir, are you there?” Coren asked.
“Yes, I’m here. Just thinking.” There was another pause of several seconds.
“I think I have something,” Brimley blurted. “Lay an elliptical pattern over the points. If you were to trace around it, can you connect them without great deviation?”
“One moment,” Coren turned to the data console. Entering commands into the computer, within seconds, the pattern was overlaid across the screen.
“Dr. Brimley, I had to resize it a bit, but I applied the pattern just as you instructed. The points connect perfectly. How’d you know?”
“Just a hunch Sergeant. I guess that’s why they pay me the big bucks.” Brimley joked.
“What is it sir? What are we seeing?” Coren wanted to hear the answer.
“The points of transmission indicate orbit. Our lost pod is circling a moon or a planet. I suspect we can know for sure if we wait a bit longer. If I’m right, I estimate the signal will be detectable again roughly around 0900.”
“Makes sense, but orbiting around where?”
“Search navigation charts. Look for moons and planets that’ve been mapped to around ten or eleven hour rotations. The signal is close enough to pick up, which means we most certainly have our location on file.”
“One moment, searching data banks now.”
A minute later, Coren excitedly announced the results.
“There is only one moon in our navigation charts that matches the orbital time signature and is just far enough away to account for the weakness of the signal we’ve received.”
“Lay it on me!” Brimley exclaimed.
“It’s the fourth moon of Tridia, in the Lorentine System.”
Brimley was sure they had nailed down the pods location. The slingshot could be used to send a crew as far as Garen Four. From there it wouldn’t be too much farther away. The return trip would take longer since the current couldn’t be used. It flowed in only one direction.
“Get word to Admiral Bryer. I’ll make preparations for the assembly of a team to fetch our pod. He’ll have a proposed travel manifest on his desk later this morning, once we confirm the signal returns as expected.”
“Very well sir!” replied Coren.
Brimley sat down on the edge of his bed. This was definitely good news.
Rather than send a normal retrieval crew, it was decided the science vessel Varnia would make the trip. As unusual as this was, there was a purpose. Many of the crew were recent graduates of Fleet Academy and a mission such as this, would give them important time and experience at their stations.
It had taken just under three days to arrive to the pod. Retraction arms were used to haul it in. The actual retrieval took only thirty minutes in total. Now the Varnia was on her way home.
“Please inform Dr. Hirsch his subject is waiting for him”, instructed the Captain.
“Yes sir.” The private left the bridge to deliver the message.
Dr. Hirsh was in the dining facility where he got the news. “Excellent! Thank you Private.” He turned to his assistant Reilly, “Who should we send into containment?”
“Well”, started Reilly. “I wonder if Paris should go. He just got his top secret security clearance and is dying to do something that requires privileged access.”
“Good choice” agreed Hirsch.
Scanning the room, Dr. Hirsch saw Paris was only a few tables over, also having dinner.
“Private Paris”, called the Doctor.
Paris was engaged in conversation with fellow graduates and at first, didn’t hear his name. The second call got his attention.
“Excuse me gents, someone of way higher importance than you losers is calling for me.”
“Yeah, yeah big man”, kidded one of the other Privates. Another chimed in, “Yeah, you sure are rising through the ranks fast.”
Paris laughed as he headed towards Dr. Hirsch’s table. Hirsch stood to greet him. Paris saluted.
“Please”, the Doctor motioned with his hand towards a chair. “Have a seat for a moment, won’t you?”
“Thank you sir.” Paris took his place at the table.
Hirsch continued. “Sergeant Reilly tells me you recently received your security clearance.”
“Yes sir”, Paris responded.
“Do you feel ready to put that clearance to use?”
“Absolutely! What is it you need me to do?” Paris was excited.
“The pod we came to retrieve is secured in Containment. I know you have direct experience in interfacing pod control modules with ship wide systems and I’m told you’re especially good with some of our older technology, which this one’s sure to have. Are you up for the task?”
“I would be very happy to do it! Thank you sir for thinking of me!”
“You’re welcome Private. Do you know where Containment is?”
Yes sir, I believe it’s on deck two.”
“Very good. Why don’t you finish dinner with your friends and be in Containment an hour from now.”
Paris was stoked.
“After you interface the pod with the ship, open the container and see what’s in it, then make your report. I’ll have some other senior officers there with you, not to interfere or tell you how to do your job, but just as observers and a buffer should there be any questions about if and how the contents should be removed for examination.”
“Thank you Sir. I’ll be there in an hour.” Paris rose and saluted.
Lift off was very turbulent. More than normal, but within minutes, the shuttle craft passed through the final layers of the Minas Terra atmosphere. Instantly, the ride evened out. Window shields retreated into walls exposing a breath taking site to crew and its passengers.
The enormous size of the new Teller Station, silhouetted against the back drop of Minas Terra was unlike any the Cadets had seen. The new station was still under construction and even bigger than its predecessor. It was nearing completion and soon would be fully operational. The students could see many types of craft landing and taking off from multiple shuttle bays.
It frustrated Zee that he couldn’t share his story with friends. He’d been coming to space often and tracking the progress of the station’s construction since it began four years ago. Its official opening day was set for a date only ten months away. He already knew where on the station he’d have an office and be working.
He started thinking of his dad. For the first time since the incident nine years ago, hope began to fade in his heart. He didn’t want to let go, but how could he not? He sat back in his seat and sighed, eyes closed and ears open. The cabin was filled with the chatter of classmates.
He found himself sitting at his desk, looking at the clock on the wall. Time had barely moved. He was bored and really wanted class to end. There was a flash of blue light.
Bolting upright in his chair, his senses were fully alert, heart pounding in his chest. He was truly afraid.
“ZEE”, someone yelled loudly at him. Looking to see who, it was his art teacher, Edmund Carr.
“ZEE”, Mr. Carr yelled at him again. “Pay attention. This is important.”
Movement caught Zee’s eye. Turning his head, a man who he hadn’t noticed until now, stood to his feet at the back of the room. Zee thought he recognized him, but wasn’t sure since the face was somewhat blurred. There was an insignia on the stranger’s jacket that made him think the man was someone of importance, maybe a political figure.
Strangely, there also was a steel collar around his neck. Zee instinctively knew that although this person was someone important, he also somehow was a prisoner and being forced to be in there.
Mr. Carr started moving towards him with a painting in his hands. Its picture was alive, many vibrant colors danced around the canvas. Again, a blinding blue flash exploded from the artwork. Zee jumped hard, trying to get out of the way of the light.
“Hey man, are you okay?
Zee turned his head. It was cadet Edwards, one of his classmates.
“Are you okay Zee?” Edwards asked. “You nearly jumped out of your seat.”
Still confused, Zee replied. “Uh, oh yeah, I’m alright. I think I dozed off and was dreaming.”
Zee learned over the years to pay attention to dreams and visions such as this. He started to take notice of them after encountering his first Darian, who spoke directly to his mind that day when visiting the original Teller Station. Then again when he, Brimley and his dad shifted to the forest where his dad disappeared.
Since that time until now, his encounters with Darians and subsequent visions continued to increase. He began to keep a pad and pen on the nightstand next to his bed. So often it was that he awoke from amazingly vivid but strange dreams, if he didn’t write them down right away, he may forget important details.
The last dream he had of Edmund Carr was just before the attack on Teller Station, nine years ago. In that dream too, Mr. Carr was displaying artwork which seemed to be alive. Back then, Carr yelled at him to “Run”. In this dream he yelled at him to “Pay attention.”
“Pay attention to what?” Zee wondered.
It occurred to him there were common elements in both dreams. Mr. Carr, the painting, the flash of light. All of a sudden it seemed clearer. Why had he not seen it before?
The flash of light was very similar if not exactly like the color and intensity of the light given off by the Tsunami. The Tsunami was obviously a vehicle of sorts, used by the attackers to move around. But what does it mean now? Does the light represent the Tsunami? Is there going to be another attack? Zee had been instructed in the dream to pay attention.
He didn’t know what he was looking for, but a sense of resolve came over him. He would vigilantly, take in every detail. He thought of Brimley’s words, “step by step”. Excitement filled his heart. Though he suspected he was still far away yet, he knew he was onto something. But what exactly?
Private Paris now stood before the Safe Access Pod. He was dressed in his official science whites. Being in uniform was important to fleet life and he wore his colors with pride.
His first task at hand was to scan the container skin for any space contaminates possibly missed during neutralizing, as the pod was pulled through shields and onto the ship. He held a wand in hand and slowly, carefully, waved it over every part of the container. The skin was clean. He replaced the wand inside its holder.
Next, numbers were punched into the pod control module. Data began flashing across the screen. Grabbing an adapter cable already prepared for his use, one end was plugged into the module and the other end into a wireless adapter. Normally, the pod would be able to transmit via wireless directly to ship systems, but since this was a pod from the original Teller Station, the technology was older and required the extra adapter hardware that newer pods didn’t need. For the next ten minutes, the transfer was under way.
A final validation test ensured no data was dropped. Satisfied he had a good exchange, Paris disconnected the cabling. It was now time to open the pod and finally see what was inside.
Entering more numbers on the module and a final push of some buttons, seconds later internal lock mechanisms disengaged. The pod slowly opened. Paris saw the contents and immediately turned to the senior officers who themselves were moving in to get a better look.
“Unless Fleet was experimenting with secret technology”, Paris began, “I would say this isn’t ours. I don’t know what it is.”
One of the officers instructed, “Scan it for explosive materials.”
Paris again grabbed the wand from its holder and made adjustments on its computerized controls. The mechanism beeped. He began waving the wand directly over the strange contents.
“No explosives sir, at least that I can detect”, Paris said.
The officers convened together in a corner, quietly discussing the matter. Finally they approached.
“Go ahead and remove the contents. We’re clear to examine the parts.”