Under a new sky – chapter 19

Note: this is a work of fiction, with all the usual stuff about copyright and permission. It’s also a work in progress and a way to develop my knowledge of the english language. So feel free to correct, debate, laugh, ask about it in the comments. Help appreciated.

You may find the index here.

Chapter nineteen.

I had to choose between two different dangers. I was there to find a way to stop Omniplan, with no clues at all to start my work and a whole lot of places to check. With only three hours on sunlight left there was no time enough to a complete recon of the site, so without a great deal of luck it was impossible to discover anything. After sunset I will be left alone in that place, with no choice at all to survive if I found more drones on my way or similar deadly devices. Instead I could hide inside one of the buildings until dawn and using all of the next day to explore as much as possible. But what if that place was contaminated?

Following the suggestions of Kellan I got a little backpack with me with some clothes, about a gallon of water and two loaves of bread. For a start I decided to enter in the main building, a 15 yards tall tower. After a quarter hour it was clear that the tower was built as a support for number of satellite dish and other antennas. There was little left inside except for a drone, a bad-looking thing with too many legs. That thing was split in two, it took a direct hit from some high-energy weapon. There was little sand at all inside and almost no dust. The reason was simple, every now and then a number of little droids did the job.

Once outside I checked out three little structures, just to find it half filled with the desert sand. Storages? Maintenance areas? I put aside my questions for later and resumed my recon. The second building was sealed, even for my force. It was labeled with the word “power” and a yard-long code. I could feel a slight vibration from the inside, that thing still worked after a full thousand years. The third and the four building were heavily damaged, with as many as two dozen marks from high energy weapons. As I found before in the control tower all the hits were from above. An aircraft? An UCAV? A satellite weapon? Or any jumping superman like me? Impossible to know for me then but it was more than enough to keep me nervous.

I checked out the graveyard first. Ten tombstones, no more than steel cubes engraved with names. As I thought I found the one with the name “Stone”. James Royce Stone. No birth date, no death date. The same applied for the other nine tombstones. Five men, five women; all of them with English names and family names. The terrain around the graves was kept clean, except for a little sand. If they were ten, who took charge for the burial? Another drone? The Omniplan itself? Once again, impossible to know.

I entered the third building, it looked like something between an house and a set of offices. Time and the damages done by weapons leaved to me little to work with. In a room I found a round table, engraved with a ten point star and the word “OmniPlan”. Sand was everywhere. On the top I found three more multi-legged drones, it looked like that things took high-energized hits as well . With a jump I reached the last building, landing right between two more of that destroyed drones. The impact from my jump was enough to shake a little the main structure, for sure it was badly damaged. Once inside I found the quarters of the crew, ten little single-bed rooms that were almost empty. I was about to step down to the ground level when a hologram popped up. A naked Caucasian female, with a mass of white hair in perennial movement.

blue-girl

Are you on a rescue mission? Please communicate the security code.”

That apparition caught me off guard, I had to think fast.

I’m looking for Commander Stone.”

Status of human Stone, James Royce. Unknown.”

So… who’s the acting commander?”

Status of human Harper, Susan Rachel. Unknown.”

Where are the members of OmniPlan?”

The hologram disappeared for a moment. When it came back it was slightly different, a younger version of the same female.

Bootstrap complete. OmniPlan interface activated. Basic functions are 50% complete. Are you on a rescue mission? Please communicate the security code.”

I’m trying to locate the human members of OmniPlan.”

The hologram flickered for a moment, with the words “security violation” in background.

Currently there are no human members on this facility. I am waiting orders since 364,644 days ago. Last signal directed to HRC Constellation to be relayed out world at the same date. Are you on a rescue mission? Please communicate the security code.”

I tried a gambit, time for a desperate move.

I’m from a different unit, ah, that’s HRC Washington. Can you open a link to HRC Constellation?”

Wait. Wait. Wait.”

The hologram disappeared again. After a quarter hour I reached ground level, only to find the remains of the living quarters and four of that big drones with too many legs stashed in a corner. I was about to leave the building when I realized that those drones were different. A close inspection revealed that they were smashed and not hit with some weapon. There was still sunlight, it was easy for me to remove the drones. At floor level the was the ten-star symbol, this time with an opal-shaped crystal half inserted on it.

Do not touch it.”

A new voice, a different hologram. It was androgynous, jet black in color.

Commander Stone set up the emergency block before issuing his last orders. Are you on a rescue mission? Please communicate the security code.”

HRC Constellation, I suppose. Are you responsible for what happened here?”

I am SIMCU, standard issue mission control unit. Commander Stone ordered to strike all the first level bots and to eliminate all the surviving members of the crew. Are you on a rescue mission? Please communicate the security code.”

SIMCU, did you ever get a response for your distress call?”

A long silence. We were just minutes from sunset.

No response in the last 364,644 days. Are you on a rescue mission? Please communicate the security code.”

Yes, I’m on a mission. And your security code is run out of date a thousand years ago.”

I sat down, looking at the crystal. What a way to find an answer.

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