The Antioch rumbled as it punched through the atmosphere of Tychon V. The pilot didn’t notice at all though. The Antioch was the pride and blood of the Thados siblings. Its frame had been beaten and battered over the years, but it gave her character. The twin mag-discs locked into the fully rotatable wings allowed for some pretty deft maneuvers when the need arose. The lone dorsal fin at the rear of the ship was adorned with small logos etched in laser scorches, a physical passport from every port it had touched. The only weapons she had were two small laser cannons protruding from the front. However, the best feature stirred deep in the hull. The warp drive that should have given out years ago was the pulse of the Antioch. All because it was tended by a loving hand.
Alexis loved The Antioch, and she loved the thrill of space.
The bridge she stood on had been where she called home for the past five years. Her brother Scott joined her two years ago, and the two hadn’t spent more than a month docked. She was ecstatic to be getting back into space. It wasn’t that she minded being planetside, but Landers seemed so mangey and eager to her. They had only spent three days on Tychon V and she was ready to launch after a couple hours. Scott loved it though, said it was a palette cleanser. She did enjoy being planetside every once in awhile, but she made sure he didn’t know that.
Alexis greatly preferred the comfort of her own ship where she could lounge in her sweats. Her short brunette hair was tied into a small knot and her feet, still doned in combat boots to protect against the cold, were propped up on the console of the bridge. This was home, this was comfort. A red light on the console flickered to life, a small buzz accompanying it.
The green computer screen was dotted with text read Foreign Transmission Detected. Alexis didn’t move until a few minutes later, when an audible tone screamed from the terminal. She stood up and grabbed her cup of coffee from the cup holder next to her chair. She took a sip of it, still warm, as she punched a few buttons to bring up the transmission data.
As Alexis read she took another sip of the coffee, trying to place the origin point of the signal in her head. She pulled up a planet chart.
A ghost system? That can’t be right. She double checked, and sure enough, that was where it was coming from. The signal was located in one of the lagrange points of the third body. She punched a button on the panel in front of her, a camera feed popping up on the screen.
Scott was laying haphazardly over his bed that was a size too small for him. He was in nothing but a pair of boxers dotted with teddy bears.
“Hey Scott, wake up.” Space had numbed their sense of modesty towards each other. A lifetime ago on Charon IV they were bathing together as their parents gleefully watched.
He continued to drool onto his pillow. Alexis threw the toggle on the hologram interface, and a digital version of her came to life in his room. Her digital self knelt down to his shaved head and poked at him, sending small electric charges through his beard.
“Scotty... Wake up.”
Scott rolled over taking most of his blanket with him.
“Mmmm sleep.” He murmured.
“SCOTT!!” The speakers burst.
Scott stumbled out of bed startled.
“Geez! Alright Sis, I’m up, I’m up! Gimmie a second.”
He reached into his dresser drawer and pulled out a dirt and oil stained t-shirt, throwing it over his head.
“We got a wave hit. Want to check it out?” Alexis was curious, but didn’t want to jump the gun. She punched a button and his personal screen displayed the star chart.
Scott threw on sweatpants that matched Alexis’, grey with a single blue stripe up the side.
“A ghost system? Looks to be a star base...”
“How can you tell?”
“Size, location in the system, signal strength” Scott was always the more technical of the two. He was solely responsible for the Antioch’s condition.
“Why would you build a starbase in an uninhabitable system?”
“Easy way to keep it off record.” Scott rubbed his beard, weighing the options. “We should check it out, see if we could find out why it was left. See if anyone is there you know?”
Scott always wanted to play the hero. Alexis however was a little on the fence. She was checking how long the flight would take.
“Okay, but if I say we leave, we do it immediately. No questions asked.” Based on the star maps they could make it there in about 5 hours if they burned hard enough. “Get the ship prepped for a rough jump. 5 hours.”
Scott smiled as he darted to his footlocker and emerged with a handful of tools and a welding goggles on his head.
“Aye aye... Captain.” Scott gave a half assed salute to the hologram and headed towards the warp room.
“Har har har. Be sure to enable our dampeners, don’t know who else might be going after that signal.”
“Don’t worry Sis, I know what I am doing.” The door flew open as Scott exited. In five hours time they would be in a system that wasn’t inhabited by a single soul. It was the kind of excitement Scott lived for, and the kind Alexis was wary of. But together, there wasn’t anything they couldn’t accomplish. After all, they were family.
The lights come to life in the hanger of the Antioch. Alexis and Scott were both getting dressed for the conditions that awaited them on the base, a single wall separating the two. As far as they could tell from preliminary readings there was no life in the entire system, let alone on the derelict.
“Are you sure there wasn’t anything on the sensors?” Alexis zipped up the skin tight white jump suit with the matching blue stripe down both sides. Her wrist danced to life in matching blue light when her zipper clicked on the top notch.
“Only some small energy readings.” They both turned the corner at the same time, stopping in front of a locker with a computer terminal on each side. His suit matched Alexis’. “Enough for life support and maybe half of the lights in the station.” The two placed their hands on each computer, their gloved hands getting scanned.
“Alpha and Beta signatures recognized.” A digitized voice extruded from the locker’s speakers and the doors unlocked. Alexis and Scott both reached in and grabbed a pair of discs, placing one over each ear. Scott lifted out a bag with a mess of tools inside and slung it over his shoulder. The last item he removed from the locker was a short pistol sized ray gun, which he immediately holstered.
Alexis grabbed drastically different equipment, starting with a twin turbine jet pack. She grabbed two ray blasters, slightly longer than the single one Scott grabbed, and with a small switch behind the base of the hilt.
“And the scans showed no one else in the system?” She secured one of her weapons to her side, holding the other with one hand.
“Nope.” Scott shook his head in disappointment. “Aside from this station, there is not a single interesting thing in this entire system. Not even any promising bacteria.”
“Good. Let’s see what we can find out about this place.”
A small ripple tore across empty space as a war machine of a spaceship popped into view. Unlike the Antioch with its two forward guns, the Serpent was armed to the teeth, with two turrets around the cylindrical base and two more built into the wings. There wasn’t much room for anything else but the the crew inside, which consisted of four aliens and a lone human. All of them wore the same style pants, steel grey sweats with a maroon stripe running down the side. The only one in a matching shirt had reptilian like features, and stood a full head over the others.
“Dampeners still holding sir.” The Gorth, a large brown alien with the pig-like snout, snorted. Its eyes focus harder on the screen in front of it. “Damn Dev’ji, looks like we didn’t scramble da signal fast enough.”
“It’s okay Kornath, it is only a single ship.” Dev’ji was standing tall, his lizard like eyes and scales small features on his lean muscular physique. Thurn’s were known for their lust for power, and thus he was the one in charge. “Rend. Can we use the ship? Or sell it?”
The grey alien had random dark blotches throughout its skin. It learned forward and ran one of its four clawed fingers over the screen.
“Garnithitu sha neradu tosnu tay.” The Wrent spoke in its native tongue through a mouth that nearly took up its entire face. Its sharp blades of teeth clamped against each other where cheeks would normally be. With no tongue it was impossible for the alien to speak GalCom, Galactic Common. Luckily, Dev’ji had owned Rend for his entire life, and had taught himself how to communicate with the beast.
“Perfect! Kornath, you will pilot that junk out of here.” Dev’ji started to bark orders to his crew of deviants. Kornath snorted in approval. “Great. Erika you are in charge of taking captives. We will dump em in the star later.”
“Sounds fun.” Erika was the sole human in the group. Her head was bald save for a long braid sprawling out of the back. Her right arm was adorned with an elaborate tattoo in alien script.
“Serakia, you jam their signals and then head for the starbase to back up Erika. And recover any data off their system if you two can.” Serakia furiously typed away, her tendrils bouncing against her green Rifeling skin. Without saying a word she nodded her head up and down.
“Rend, you stay with the ship. Make sure there aren’t any further complications.” Dev’ji spun on his heel and headed towards the airlock as his crew carried out their orders.
We can handle a single ship. He grinned in approval. This is going to be the easiest payday ever.
Alexis stood up with a jolt, knocking her coffee over. She was so stunned that she didn’t ever bother cleaning it up.
The starbase was like anything Alexis or Scott had ever seen before. Starbases were fairly common, especially in the larger systems, but this one was a behemoth by comparison. Most were glorified docking ports with small conveniences, their main draw being passage to the planet below. This was an entire city. The gravity ring spun through four sub-sections of the station, each with attached landing pads. The center of the station rose tall with an endless amounts of spires reaching into space. A few larger disc shaped structures jutted out as well, creating an almost bridge like structure between the four smaller modules and the large center structure. They were connected through walkway that by Alexis’ guess were at least a half a dozen kilometers long.
“What a view.” Scott said, snapping Alexis out of her trance of wonderment.
Alexis made the final course corrections for the Antioch before enabling the auto landing sequence. Scott was standing on the bridge, looking out at the station.
“Looks like the signal is coming from a command tower in the center section.” The spire was adorned with a red stripe around it lit up on the digital readout on the main screen. There we at least a dozen other towers reaching out from the center platform. “Scott, you head for the maintenance room here.” A light lit up on the outer sector near the landing pad “Try to get more than basic’s running there at least. See if you can’t find a record about why it is abandoned.”
“Got it sis.” The pair left the bridge and wound their way through the bowels of the Antioch to the hanger. “What’s the plan from there?”
Alexis sighed. What was the plan?
“Get to the center of the station and get to the top of that tower.”
A black screen with ragged looking green text was counting down to a successful landing. Alexis and Scott both reached for two completely glass helmets handing near the ships exit. As they both locked them into place digital readouts extended across their eyes from the headsets present on their ears. Vitals quickly flashed across each screen.
“Remember, we aren’t here to loot and plunder. We are here to see if there are survivors and to figure out why it was abandoned.”
“Oh come on Alexis! That was one time!” Scott protested.
“Still had to bail you out...”
“That engine could have been salvaged! The Antioch could have been faster!”
“And I could have used all those credits to buy a brand new engine.”
“Okay fine... no looting.” Scott sounded defeated, but was actually incredibly grateful his sister kept him on the honest side of things. “I really wish Dad wouldn’t have found out.”
“Thankfully it would take a lot more than that for us to care what he thinks.”
The two smiled at each other.
“Ain’t that the truth.” Scott shook his head.
With a rumble, the Antioch landed safely on the docking bay of the mysterious base.
Alexis tapped her right wrist twice and her vitals dashed from the visor to the base of her wrist.
A digitized voice came alive in both her and Scott’s ears.
“Good evening. Antioch stand by mode engaged.” A calm and collected feminine voice says.
Scott tapped his wrist in the same fashion, the soothing blue light enveloping him.
“WHAT IS UP MAN!?” A loud rambunctious voice of pure enthusiasm rings. The hanger door lowers.
“Door lowered. No signs of anything on radar Ms. Thados.”
“Are you ready to rock!? I’m ready to rock! I hope you are!!” Beta sounded off.
The hanger door touched down on the space station with a tudd, dust floating away into space.
Both Scott and Alexis had their weapons primed as they swept the landing platform, the conduits in their boots allowing them to walk normally and keep them from floating into space. There was nothing special on the platform, aside from a few magnetically locked shipping crates that had long ago been stripped of their innards.
“Alright Scott, let’s move in. Remember, no funny stuff.”
“Wait...” Beta immediately jumps in. “Are you implying that he know how to tell a good joke?”
“Shut up Beta.” The two chimed in unison.
Alexis braced herself against the door, ready for anything, as Scott plugged a cord into the door panel from his wrist computer. Beta quickly blew past the doors encryption and caused the airlock to glide open. The door slid shut behind them as air was pumped into the small room. A tone sounded as the green light above the door leading into the starbase flashed on, followed by the door slowly opening.
“Oxygen levels normal.” Alpha behaved much better than Beta.
The two began to remove their glass helmets now that they were safe from the vacuum of space. They placed them in the foot lockers at the door. Alexis took the key out of her lock and slid it into her glove. Scott did the same as his visor display was downloading and rapidly displaying map schematics.
“Beta... find the heart.”
“Why? So you can break it like you did Lisa’s?”
“Shut up Beta.” Scott starts digging through his bag.
“Why don’t you reprogram that thing?” Alexis nagged. Beta always got results, but the Spark still rubbed her the wrong way.
“I heard that.”
“I like him, he keeps me in check.” Scott pulled a high tech looking screwdriver out of his bag. He locked his gun to his thigh.
“Not to sound like a creep, but if I were real I would kiss you.” Beta egged on. “It would be a classy one too.” Scott shook his head and smirked.
Alexis rolled her eyes and punched her wrist computer, allowing her goggles to protrude light onto the floor. Scott turned his guide lights on as well, still studying the map intently.
“Head left. Looks like the signal is coming from a lab of some sort.”
Alexis had one of her rifles drawn and ready as the two headed down the silent hallways of darkness. She was primed and ready for anything, despite early scans showing nothing aboard.
“Is the signal on the way to the maintenance room? You could stop there and get everything up and running. I could head to the source.”
“Umm...” Scott’s visor glides through multiple layouts. “Yeah, that will work. Take the third right. That would be a good place to split up.”
There wasn’t a sound in the entire station aside from their slowly paced footsteps. All of the fixtures looked used, and hastily abandoned, which struck Alexis as odd. The living quarters they walked passed still had clothes folded and pressed in the closets, the beds fully made. Alexis wished they could get into the rooms to explore fuller, so she steadied her pace towards the maintenance sector.
Scott and Alexis came around the corner, a branded sign hanging above one of the entry ways. It was littered with scorch marks from ray blasts, but the logo was still readable.
“Huh. This is a SynCorp base...” The sign had even smaller text underneath it that read cafeteria..
The pair poked their heads into the room, which varied drastically in appearance than the living quarters they had passed earlier. There were masses of food strew about and chairs left on their sides. There were even small swaths of flies circling bits of food.
“Why would you clone flies in space?” Scott was thinking out loud again.
“Probably for pollination purposes. Running an artificial ecosystem needs all the bells and whistles.” Alexis looked at the ceiling for any clues as to what happened. “They probably came in through ventilation after the main power failure.” She pointed with her blaster.
“I wonder why SynCorp would have a starbase in a ghost system?”
“No record of this starbase exists Sir.” Alpha provided a list of official SynCorp bases on both of their visors.
“Look, we shouldn’t even be here Scott.” Alexis started to look worried.
“Shut it Beta.” Scott paused. “What if the signal was someone in trouble?”
“It isn’t our problem! This place shouldn’t even be here. How can we rescue someone that doesn’t exist?!”
Scott crossed his arms in anger.
“Come on now. Are you serious? You always talk about how we never take risks. What is more risky than this?” Scott looked pissed.
“We have no idea what we are getting into here Scott.” She motioned towards the door of the cafeteria. “Look at this place. When I said risks I meant the calculated ones, not the wrong-place-wrong-time ones.”
“Do you mean calculated risks like when you lost 10,000 credits in blackjack?”
“Damn it Beta, power down.” Without protest Scott’s visor flickered off and his wrist went silent. Alexis wasn’t happy.
“Come on Scott, let’s go back to Tychon and report this.” Scott didn’t look convinced. “It is too fishy and we are only two people. Something is wrong here.” She was obviously disturbed. “This place is gigantic. It would take us months to check every last system to find out what went wrong.”
“Look Allie...” He stepped forward and placed his hands on her shoulders. “I am going to find the signal and then we can leave. We can handle this.”
“No. Absolutely not Scott.” She paused. “I don’t want anything to happen to you. After what happened with...”
Scott immediately stopped her.
“Look sis, I know you have always been protective of me and want to keep me safe and all, but part of the reason I left school was to come here and get in trouble with my big sister. This is a bigger bite than what we normally chew off, way bigger even, but we can do this.” She started to steel herself, realizing her brother was not about to take no for an answer. “Look, I will be fine. You can go wait on the ship or come with me. Whatever you want. But I want to at least find that signal.”
Alexis was about to say she was coming with him.
“Madam, Sir, it seems a second ship has arrived at the base.” Alpha spoke up before Alexis could commit.
She instantly toughened up and drew her second blaster. Scott tapped Beta awake from his wrist.
“We are going back to the ship.” But Scott was already turning to corner towards the signal point. “Be careful...” Alexis said to no one in particular, her steps echoing off the walls as she headed back to the Antioch.
“Alpha, tell me everything you know.”
“It seems to be a re-purposed strike fighter from the Titan Wars. I count five life forms total.” There was a brief pause.
Mercs I bet.
“Ma’am, based on their trajectory they are sending two lifeforms to the Antioch and two towards Master Scott.”
Scott started to cut in over the secured radio channel.
“Get back to the ship. I will rescue the survivors and meet you there.”
“Yeah, don’t wait up Mom.” Beta chided, always eager to get in the last word.