CHAPTER 18

Approx. 6200 words

All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2015   SJ

 

The Terminus Est

 

written by  SJ

 

 

    Once Officer Melinda Dion and her team had returned to General Parker’s command ship, he wanted to talk to them right away. He had been concerned about them being used in a far recon mission on Thanatos-4, and no longer wanted to risk them being used that way again. Her team and their expertise was in investigation, which was the way he planned on using them from now on. After a couple days rest, he asked them to return to work on the Alshain case: They needed to find out more about those scientists and what they had worked on.
    However, after almost a week, Dion was called to the General’s office for a meeting. Online with them was Sergeant Jennifer Dakota and Librarian Marcellus, plus several Tau officials.
    The Tau then began, telling them the only information they had so far was that a Tau scout ship had spotted a large spacecraft located 38.6 light years from the Sol Tau’n system, which put it 32.7 light years from Sol Prociara, Federal Capital of the Sol Frontier. When it was determined the spaceship emanated an aura of the WARP, the Tau sent a Cruiser, soon to be followed by a Destroyer from Prociara, then by three Heavy Scouts from the Emperor Corporation. Once the Terran ships had arrived, the first Tau ship on the scene had already determined the spaceship was a derelict.
    The General allocated one of his shuttles for Officer Dion’s use, one that had been specially equipped similar to a Space Marine Special Ops shuttle, with stealth and jump drive capability. Corporal de la Vega was assigned the pilot and was told to go pick up Jennifer Dakota from the space station at Cornucopia. Afterwards, they expertly made the jump to were the Tau and Terran warships would be waiting, a location somewhere in the middle of space.
    ******
    “It’s called, the Terminus Est. At least that’s the name we found clearly displayed in two places.” Captain Bo’dane was a Terran/Tau, but looked mostly Tau, with the typical bluish skin tone and flatter nose. “It’s Latin, one of your Old Earth languages I believe. We’ve been studying it for several days using drones.”
    Melinda and Jennifer stood on the bridge of the Tau Cruiser and stared as one of the bridge’s crewmen clicked on a large holographic image of the ship in question.
    The eyebrows on Melinda and Jennifer popped up. The Terminus Est seemed to have the classical look of a Chaos warship, dark and foreboding. It was long with irregular shapes on the sides and top. The rear section, or what they considered the rear, was a little wider and had a kind of conning tower sticking up about three stories high. In front, the shape forked out into two prows which made up about twenty percent of the ships length.
    Captain Bo’dane began explaining, pointing at the front of the ship first. “Here, on this side, it looks like a carrier ship, where some kind of fighters might take off and land.” He pointed along the side of the ship. “Here, from the tip of the prow all the way to where the large rear section of the ship starts, we’ve counted twelve weapon’s stations...on each side.”
    “Weapons?” Melinda began asking. “It’s armed?”
    “Weapon’s stations, ONLY.” The Captain clarified. “There are no weapons...just places were weapons could be. And so far, we haven’t spotted anything that could be considered torpedo tubes.” Using some holographic controls, he placed his Cruiser next to the Terminus Est. It was less than one-third the size. He continued. “Our only conclusion is that IF it WAS armed, it would have at least twice the firepower of my Cruiser--probably more” He grinned. “If somehow, it did suddenly became armed, my Cruiser is armed with six torpedoes. And at this range, I’d blow that ship to pieces in one salvo. However...how that ship could suddenly become armed would fall into the category of fantasy, not reality. Wouldn’t you both agree?”
    There was a delay, then Sergeant Dakota answered. “Whereas we’ve seen some strange things from Chaos, having weapons appear out of nowhere is very much inconceivable.” Then she had to ask, “we were told there was a WARP aura around it?”
    The Captain thought a couple seconds, then explained. “The best way to put it is like this: It’s like this ship was traveling through space normally, then suddenly entered the WARP for a time, then exited the WARP, and continued on...kind of like going through a cloud of gas. It still has some essence of the WARP around it.” He then zoomed in on one side of the spaceship for a closer view. “And look at this: It seems to be make out of a similar material to our own ships, but...the material seems to be rotten, or badly decayed. It seems to me if I hit it with just one of my 32 megaton torpedoes the hull would crack open like an egg shell.”
    The two women looked closely, and could tell what the Captain was talking about. It wasn’t that the hull was rotten all the way through, the holes were relatively small. It simply looked rusted, giving the ship a brown, slightly-greenish, color, with darker colors representing rust or decay.
    The Captain continued. “I mean, if it wasn’t for that, I would give the ship an armor class of at least three times my ship, and twice that of any Terran Cruiser.” He changed the subject. “Oh, by the way, the Terran ships that were here before left about a day before you arrived...if you wanted to know.”
    Jennifer continued to think, then asked, “how about inside? Have--”
    He shook his head. “We haven’t been inside.” He pointed at the front of the ship, in between the prows. “Here, there seems to be a pair of hanger doors, and underneath, some shuttle bay doors, plus, some smaller doors on the rear side of the ship, like maintenance hatches. But, all of them are closed tight. Right now, the only way we could get inside is to put a hole in it.” He looked at the two women. “We were waiting for you guys to show up before we did that. It’s why we called for you. You have more experience with the WARP than we do. I’ll be glad to lend you the use of a Devilfish transport and a Fire Team...or even a Pathfinder Team, whichever you chose. Hell, I’ll go in with you in my XV8 Crisis Battlesuit, if you want. But, we need your experience to help us investigate inside.”
    ******
    Melinda’s shuttle lead the way toward the front of the Terminus Est, escorted by a Devilfish transport; way in front of both ships, were its two drones, scouting ahead. Captain Bo’dane stayed on his ship, but warned: “If that ship starts growing weapons somehow, I’ll give you only a short time before I’ll start firing.”
    “We don’t expect that to happen.” Jennifer seemed certain. “The biggest thing, so far, that’s come out of a WARP opening was something we ended up naming, a Defiler...about the size of one of your Broadside Battlesuits. And that came out under its own power.” She paused, then asked, “Captain, can you detect WARP openings?”
    “Yes we can...but, we can’t close them.” He responded, but then mentioned strongly. “As soon as we detect one, I’m going to raise the shields immediately.”
    “Can you send me that location before you do?” Jennifer requested, then informed, “if I’m close enough to one I can close it.”
    “Absolutely...you bet.” The Captain sounded happy at Jennifer’s ability.
    Melinda’s shuttle had a main screen and several secondaries. Two of them were linked to the optics of the two Devilfish drones, now checking out the hanger area next to the two prows. The hanger doors were closed. In front of them was a forty meter square hangar platform, a kind of runway, where on each side were two twenty-meter-square rooms, empty, without doors. It was what made Captain Bo’dane think the front part was for fighters.
    As the shuttle flew close to the hanger doors, the two drones flew elsewhere, one going underneath the ship, one going on top. Finally, Melinda had to ask, “Captain, do you have ANY information on the inside of the ship at all?”
    “The best we’ve been able to determine is that the front part of the ship is the hangar, and the rear part must have the engines, power, and jump drive...assuming it has any of those.” The Captain spoke informatively. “That WARP aura masks most of our scanner abilities.”
    “I understand.”
    Staff Sergeant Nikolai Petrovsky, among his skill-set was spaceship engineering and bridge operations. He asked, “can you tell if the ship has ANY power at all?”
    Captain Bo’dane thought a second. “Well, that’s hard to tell. You’re asking if it even has enough power to open the doors, right?”
    “Yes.” Nikolai confirmed. “I might be able to get a link to the bridge and open the doors remotely.”
    The drone on top of the spaceship was currently over one of the weapon’s stations. Nikolai asked the operator of that drone to get a little closer. There had to be a way for crewmen to get to the weapons, so there had to be doors...then he spotted one, reporting it to Melinda.
    “Yes, we saw those doors.” That was Captain Bo’dane, informing. “But, they’re all closed tight.”
    “Yes, I know.” Nikolai responded. “But, those doors curve inward. I might be able to get a link to the bridge from one of those.”
    Melinda had a map of the exterior of the ship at her disposal. She looked at it a couple seconds, then ordered Corporal de la Vega to take the shuttle to the furthest weapon’s station (closest to where they guessed the bridge might be) on the right side, the same side the Tau Cruiser was on. She told the Devilfish transport to stay at the hanger doors, but rise above it so it was on top of the ship, out of sight of anything that might come out. The drones were then flown so one of them faced the hanger doors directly, the other so it could keep an eye on the shuttle bay doors underneath.
    All of Melinda’s team had armored spacesuits and were trained to use them in zero gravity. But, it was only Nikolai that flew over to the weapon’s station, a place that could’ve easily held a turret measuring close to fifteen meters in diameter, the area looking like one might’ve been there at one time.
    The weapon’s station curved inward to allow for a circular turret, the sliding doors curving inward also just like Nikolai figured. The WARP aura was all around him, his suit protecting him from any radiation. But, since the doors curved inward, there was a space next to where the doors were closed that had a much less WARP aura. He got out his equipment and began trying to connect to the ship’s bridge controls. However, before he had done anything, he spotted some manual controls. In a short time, the heavy, inner doors where sliding open. Once they were open enough for a person to get though, he wanted to stop them, but couldn’t. As they continued to open, he made his report. “I found some manual controls for the back door on the weapon’s station. They are opening now. We have entry to the Terminus Est.”
    “Good job, Sergeant.” That was Captain Bo’dane. “I knew I had sent for the right team. And that answers the question about power. That ship has to have at least some.”
    “Nikolai.” Melinda cut in. “Don’t go inside yet--”
    “I wasn’t planning on it.” He gave himself an encouraging chuckle. “That ominous feeling just got worse...at least for me here.”
    “I’m coming over.” That was Jennifer. “I want to get inside to see if I can sense anything.”
    Melinda quickly gave her okay and soon Jennifer was on her way over, meeting up with Nikolai, who was glad she came, and that she had her Staff with her.
    Nikolai remained where he was, quickly preparing his equipment so he could connect with the bridge controls. Jennifer went further in, entering a room twenty meters wide by ten meters long, with a door in front of her and to the left. The ceiling was high, about ten meters. The room was completely empty, and there was no gravity.
    Eventually, the Captain announced. “I’m sending over some mapping drones.”
    ******
    The doors to the room Jennifer was in were locked. But, she could now use her special ability to search the ship for signs of demonic activity, and for the WARP in general.
    Nikolai was still working on connecting with the bridge, but was having problems...
    Then there was an anxious announcement from Sergeant Dal’kayne, squad leader of the Tau Fire Team: “The hangar doors are opening!”
    “Nikolai?” Melinda started to ask.
    “I didn’t do anything. I haven’t connected.”
    “Then why are these doors opening?” That was the Fire Team’s sergeant, his voice more anxious than before.
    “We’re coming over there.” Melinda announced firmly. “Nikolai, Jennifer...will you guys be okay where you are?”
    Both answered affirmative.
    When she turned to del a Vega, she was already turning the shuttle to go back to the hanger..
    “Sergeant Dal’kayne.” The Captain spoke firmly. “Stand your ground and send in one gun drone as soon as the doors are wide enough. I’m sending the mapping drones to your location. When Dion arrives, I want you to escort her team inside. Follow her orders. Understood?”
    “Yes, sir.” The sergeant answered formally.
    Jennifer thought this was a good time to report her initial findings: “So far I’ve found nothing demonic inside the ship. There are no WARP openings or WARP creatures.” There was a pause. “My bio-scan shows no signs of life at all...not even microbic.” She sighed with frustration, talking so everyone could hear, but mainly to herself. “I’m inside a room. Why is this door locked from the inside?” There was a loud click, then squeaking, a heavy door opening. “It’s open now! Nikolai, did--”
    “I have done nothing!”
    “You might’ve trigger something sensitive, Nikolai.” The Captain suggested. “That’s an unknown ship. You might be connected and not know it.”
    “I think, maybe, you are right.” Nikolai agreed. “I’m going to stop what I’m doing before I end up accidentally undoing what I might’ve done. Melinda...I am requesting to join Jennifer. Maybe with her we can find the bridge and I can access it manually.”
    “Go ahead.” Melinda gave her permission. “But, don’t go too much further until we reach your location.”
    “Understood.” Nikolai responded as he put away his equipment, then joined Jennifer, who had opened the door in front of her and found herself in another room exactly the same size. Nikolai came in and opened the door on the left, and found another room just like the one he was in, except the curved doors leading to the outside weapon’s station, were closed.
    ******
    By the time Melinda’s shuttle had arrived, the sliding hangar doors were completely open. Inside was another forty meter square platform, a runway. And like the first one, on each side were two twenty-meter-square rooms, empty without doors. At the end of that was a wall with two ten-meter-wide doors leading further into the ship.
    “I’m willing to bet that the front part of that hanger was for fighters. The back section for torpedo boats.” The Captain made an educated guess.
    “Maybe your right.” Melinda responded. “But, there’s nothing there now. That’s the important thing.”
    “I agree.” Bo’dane concurred, happily.
    “Captain.” Melinda started explaining. “We’re all going to get out and move in on foot from here on. If my guess is right, the doors will be unlocked.”
    All of Melinda’s team and the Fire Team had magnetic footwear. It allowed them to move semi-normally in zero-G. And she was correct, the two ten-meter-wide, sliding, doors were unlocked and easily opened by a set of manual controls. Once they were inside, they all stood amazed, awestruck:
    The ship was dark, but their night vision optics compensated. They stood inside a large hallway, forty meters wide by one hundred and twenty meters long. At the end of the hallway, they spotted Jennifer and Nikolai, standing together on the right side.
    “You have to see this.” They heard Nikolai’s voice over their coms.
    The hallway had a sort of medieval look to it, tall and arched at the top. Forty meters down, there were four columns on each side, spaced out and leading up to where it ended, where a very, large, throne was located--one only a giant could sit in. Where the first set of columns began, it looked like there was a rug leading right up to the base of the throne; however, it wasn’t a rug, but a design of grotesque and gruesome shapes etched into the floor of the hallway.
    High up on the back of the throne was a set of three, deeply, etched, circles, all almost touching each other in the shape of a tripod; between the circles, were three arrows sticking out, all originating at the central point within the center of three circles. On each side of the throne were normal-sized doors, each about two meters wide and having the same three-circled shapes etched into the doors...a shape that, unfortunately, had the look of a new type of Chaos force.
    Melinda told the Fire Team to remain back at the beginning of the hallway and spread out into a firing line, but, of course, not to fire unless they were ordered, or they had a confirmed enemy target. They were happy to comply since it meant they didn’t have to go any further inside the ship.
    The walls and floors inside of the Terminus Est looked very similar to the outside, a dark, rusted, decayed, appearance.
    At the beginning of the large hallway, to the left and right, were two storage rooms, which Captain Bo’dane said looked like a place to store torpedoes. Next, they found a place that looked like shuttle bays, four on each side, with elevators that went down to a place to be launched underneath the ship. But, the elevators were not powered. If the room space for each of the shuttle bays were any indication about the size of the shuttles, it would be apparent that the Terminus Est could take down to a planet as many as one hundred troops at a time.
    The rest of the space on each side of the hallway were made up of rooms just like the rooms Jennifer and Nikolai had found earlier, two by four on each side, all connected by wide doors. The rooms next to the weapon’s stations could easily hold crew for the guns, with room to spare for supplies, while the other rooms could easily be used as barracks for troops. However, like all the other rooms they’ve found so far, they were all completely empty.
    Once they were done, it was time to go in further, past the throne and through the marked doors, a place they were hoping to find the bridge, engine room, power plant, and other important areas of the ship.
    As for weapons, Melinda had requisitioned a Tau plasma rifle for herself, a weapon she liked better than the Space Marine plasma gun because she didn’t have to wear any special heat resistant gloves. De la Vega, Koufax, and Nikolai had novaguns, Jennifer had her Staff and a borrowed Tau pulse pistol. Melinda had suggested none of them carry projectile weapons because of the possibly of ricochets inside the ship.
    Melinda, de la Vega, and Koufax took the door on the left side of the throne, while Nikolai and Jennifer took the door on the right, each door leading to a hallway ten meters wide, forty meters long. Each hallway had an array for four doors, the left side had the doors on the left, the right side had doors on the right. Each hallway had a door at the end of the hallway.
    Before they entered the hallways, Captain Bo’dane sent each team a gun drone, like a point man, to go ahead of them, checking for traps. They also noticed this area was darker. However, they compensated by turning up their night vision optics.
    The four doors on each side led to identical areas, mirror copies of each other. The rooms were about forty meters square each, except they angled inward on one side. Each of the areas were physically divided into sections that could be used for almost anything: administration, supplies, mess hall, or offices. But since they were completely empty, it was hard to tell exactly what they were actually used for.
    The other side of the hallway had no doors at all, but had an array of long rectangular portals, all closed.
    The door on the far end of the hallway opened up into another empty room, forty meters wide by fifteen meters deep. But, unlike the other rooms, this one looked like it was supposed to be empty, a room that led to other areas of the ship. On each side, left and right, were heavy, metal, doors, both locked. In the center of the far side, built into the wall, was an elevator. On each side of the elevator were stairs leading up. Opposite the elevator was a large door leading to the room the portals were in. They took the stairs first, which led up, then back around, to a room that was twenty meters square, directly above the access room they were in...finally, the bridge, Nikolai recognizing it immediately.
    All the doors Melinda’s team had used they left open so the mapping drones could do their job unimpeded; the small orbs were almost finished with the first part of the ship and were getting ready to enter the place past the throne. However, so far the Terminus Est was completely empty...a veritable ghost ship.
    Melinda stayed on the bridge while she sent de la Vega and Koufax down to look at the room with the portals. Inside, they found a forty meter long by ten meter wide room, again, completely empty. However, here there were places in the walls were equipment could be hooked up, possibly scanners or communications. The portals in the walls looked like they could be opened up and fired from, but were not operational. When they were finished, they returned to the elevator room just in time to spot one of the mapping drones fly upstairs to the bridge.
    De la Vega and Koufax stayed down stairs, Melinda telling them to station themselves one at each of the heavy, metal, doors. Nikolai was currently figuring out a way to unlock them, calling them from time to time to see if he was successful. Eventually, he got it, and the doors were reported unlocked. However, when asked what they saw, they both reported seeing something very strange. Nikolai stayed on the bridge, while Melinda and Jennifer went down stairs.
    The area inside each of the doors were indeed strange. As they stared, they found it hard to believe; their night vision optics should've allow them to see an open room, but what they saw didn't make any sense. There were areas of complete darkness and normal areas; it was like a maze, the walls made out of zones of darkness. Jennifer reported that a substantial amount of WARP energy emanated from inside the rooms. Then Melinda remembered the darkness she saw on Alshain, where light had little effect.
    “I don’t think anyone should go inside either of those rooms.” Melinda made it an order.
    Captain Bo’dane was listening. “Isn’t that were the engines and power plant should be?”
    “Probably.” Melinda responded. “But, I don’t think it’s safe.”
    “Want me to send in one of the mapping drones?”
    “Yes...good idea.” Then she watched as one of the drones entered on her side.
    After about a minute, the Captain reported a problem. “Well...we just got an error on the drone’s software. And the virtual map is garbled.”
    “Can you get the drone out?” Melinda asked.
    “We’re working on it.” The Captain sighed. “The drone should be able to get out exactly the way it got in...but, it--” He sighed again. “We just lost it.”
    “Just lost it?” Melinda was surprised.
    “We’re not in contact with it anymore. It’s gone.”
    Then Koufax spotted something. “Did you see that?”
    There were several, what’s.
    “The dark and light pattern just changed.” Koufax stated soberly.
    “I saw it, also.” Jennifer confirmed, then sighed deeply. “It’s like a WARP maze in there...a maze that keeps shifting and changing.” Her next statement she was serious about. “No one should go in there--ever!” She held out her hand and made an analyses. “The wave length of the WARP energy in there fluctuates constantly. They might be using the WARP as a power source.”
    “Close the doors and have Nikolai lock them,” Melinda suggested, making it an order. Then she asked, “Jennifer is it possible there’s a WARP opening, or a WARP gate in there?”
    Sergeant Dakota thought for a couple seconds. “I’m not really sure. It seems to me, if they’re using the WARP as a power source, that the area could not be used as a portal as well. Like a fusion reactor would be for us. The area would be unsafe to go into. The same situation could exist here as well. These doors are almost twenty centimeters thick. Anything inside would have a difficult time getting out even if there was something in there.”
    “I agree.” The Captain made up his mind. “Keep the doors locked and later on I’ll post a couple sentry gun drones in there. Go ahead and finish exploring the rest of the ship.”
    At that time, Melinda had an idea. As she went upstairs to join Nikolai, she told the Captain. “I think I have an idea.” Then she spoke to Nikolai. “Do you think you can turn off the engines and the power source?”
    He answered right away. “The engines ARE off. This ship is moving, but it’s a drift.”
    The Captain cut in. “He’s right. The ship IS moving...actually at quite a high rate of speed. But, like Nikolai said, it’s a drift...just coasting. But, that’s a good idea. If you can turn off the power source, maybe that would shut off the WARP energy.”
    There was a delay, then Nikolai had to answer. “Well, shutting off a WARP power source...I have to admit, I have no idea how to do that, or even if it can be done at all. On the bridge there’s a hallway that, I think, leads to the Captain’s cabin. If I can open that, maybe there would be some information about how to shutdown a WARP power source. That’s the best I can do.”
    Once the doors to the WARP power source were confirmed locked, the rest of Melinda’s team joined her on the bridge of the Terminus Est. There were stairs going up further into the conning tower. She sent de la Vega, Koufax, and one of the gun drones up to explore.
    On the bridge, Jennifer looked down the short, ten-meter hallway to a door that apparently led to the Captain’s cabin, waiting for Nikolai to unlock it. The second gun drone had preceded her, waiting, ready to be the first to enter.
    Melinda was talking with Nikolai while Jennifer walked down to within two meters of the door. However, once she got closer, she started picking up strange feelings. Then she began concentrating, letting her feelings reach out. As she did, it was like something in the cabin began to reach out to her...
    All of a sudden, she gasped, seeing a horrifying vision--the inside of the ship filled with some kind of thick pestilence, like she was actually there, the walls pulsing with an infectious slime. When she touched it, it began spreading up her arm, sores and boils forming. She spotted other people, all of them afflicted with the same horrifying disease. She gasped again and staggered around almost screaming. Then she saw the door to the Captain’s cabin, open, a man inside, the same rotting disease all over his face and hands as he beckoned to her. That’s when she steadied herself. Holding up her Staff she yelled with defiance.
    Jennifer Dakota suddenly found herself standing inside the bridge, just outside the hallway. Everything was normal as Melinda and Nikolai stared at her, mouths open. She was sweating.
    Melinda had to ask. “What’s wrong?”
    “This ship...its...” Jennifer spoke, breathing hard, not knowing how to explain.
    Nikolai then announced. “I think I’ve almost got it. The door to the Captain’s cabin is not really locked. It just has to be opened by a bridge command--”
    “DON’T OPEN THE DOOR!” Jennifer was adamant. “No one should ever open that door--please!”
    “You had a vision, didn’t you?” Melinda asked seriously.
    Jennifer nodded, yes.
    The Captain had been listening. “What’s going on over there? I heard something about not opening the door to the Captain’s cabin?”        
    Melinda answered, explaining. “Sergeant Dakota has a special ability. She’s been training with Librarian Marcellus--”
    “Librarian?” Captain Bo’dane understood the term. “I didn’t think any of those were left.”
    This time Jennifer answered. “Librarian Marcellus...he’s still around.”
    Then Melinda continued. “Jennifer’s title is officially, Combat Librarian. If she says she had a vision for us not to open the Captain’s cabin, then we shouldn’t.”
    “Librarian, huh.” The Captain only pondered a second. “Well, that’s good enough for me. If you guys want to leave, then head on out.”
    “Yes--we should leave this ship!” Jennifer had made up her mind, then tried to explain. “This ship, it’s, well...the only definition I can come up with is: Plague Ship.”
    “Plague Ship!” The Captain agreed. “Well, you got my vote. I’ll meet you guys on my bridge in about an hour.”
    ******
    Once everyone else had left, Nikolai and Jennifer stayed behind on the bridge, where he closed and locked all the doors on the Terminus Est, all except one, a maintenance door located up in the conning tower, a place that had been searched and found empty, except for places equipment could be hooked up.
    Jennifer took once last look at the Captain’s cabin, and had another vision. “The same diseased man that beckon to her before was staring at her, then began to laugh...as if to say: “You haven’t won.”
    She took a step back almost running into Nikolai, and the vision was gone.
    “What happened?” He had to know. “Another vision?
    Frowning defiantly in the direction of the vision, she nodded, yes.
    They both quickly made their way upstairs into the conning tower. At the maintenance door, they exited to where Melinda’s shuttle was waiting. Then, using his novagun, Nikolai fired and tried to damage the door so it was welded shut. Then, they spacewalked to the shuttle, where it then returned to Captain Bo’dane’s Cruiser...
    ******
    On the bridge, they talked.
    The Captain looked at Melinda and Jennifer. “So the final conclusion of your investigation is for no one to ever go aboard that ship ever again? Just leave it alone?”
    “Well, someone should keep an eye on it.” Melinda agreed. “And if someone wants to study it from the outside, that should be fine.” She looked at Jennifer for her opinion.
    The Librarian shrugged. “If it were up to me, I would say just keep an eye on it.” She began explaining. “Right now we are facing two Chaos forces. Why take a chance of bringing in a third. Once we’ve dealt with Chaos and they’re gone, we can come back and investigate the Terminus Est. I don’t think it’s going anywhere, is it?”
    “Well, even though it’s traveling at a high rate of speed, it’s still only sub-light.” The Captain answered, explaining. “It’s not heading toward any star systems. And it would take hundred of years to get to one even if it was. So, you’re absolutely correct. It’s not going anywhere.” He shrugged. “If it was up to me, I’d blow the thing to pieces and get it over with.”
    Melinda grinned. “I get the feeling it’s not up to you.”
    The Captain grinned back, nodding, yes.
    Jennifer sighed. “If someone has to go inside that ship, would you at least tell them to NOT enter the Captain’s cabin. In fact, it would be best to fill the hallway leading to the door with Talmar...block it off so no one can ever get to it.”
    The Captain looked back at Jennifer with the same expression. “I’ll tell them. Hell, I’ll pound my fist on the table and insist...but, in the long run, I don’t think it will be up to me.”
    ******
    When Melinda and Jennifer returned to the space station orbiting Cornucopia, now starting to be used as a type of headquarters, they were called to Librarian Marcellus’ office right away. The General was there, also, waiting online...a look of disappointment on his face. “Well...they did it. You guys hadn’t left the Terminus Est anymore than a day when a team of Tau scientists showed up to go on-board, authorized by Tel’ba Mal herself.”
    Jennifer sighed.
    “Captain Bo’dane got chewed out for letting you guys lock up the ship.”
    “Let me guess.” Melinda spoke sarcastically. “They got inside the ship and now they’re all dead?”
    Marcellus took over. “They got inside the ship...they figured out the bridge controls, opened all the doors, and...” He frowned. “Then they opened the Captain’s cabin...”
    “What happened?” Jennifer needed to know.
    Marcellus didn’t want to answer.
    The General answered for him. “Nothing. It was empty. They even opened a storage room behind the cabin. That was empty also.”
    “So this was all for nothing?” Jennifer was serious. “Everyone thinks the visions I had were nothing more than my imagination?”
    The General became serious. “No, Jennifer. Myself, the General...even Yarrick, all take your visions very serious--”
    “Obviously not serious enough.” Marcellus had to protest.
    General Parker sighed, then continued, “the only good thing about this is if something does happen, we can count on Tau warships helping us out.”
    Marcellus made a face, sticking to his protest. “Small consolation for what could've happened.”
    The General had to give in. “Yes...yes, Marcellus. I agree. I’m sorry, Jennifer.”
    ******
    Another Galactic month came and went in the Sol Frontier. None of the Chaos warships were spotted, and the Terminus Est remained peacefully a drift in space while numerous scientific teams came, examined it, then left...usually disappointed.
    As for the engine room, the Tau invented a new type of drone to penetrate the zones of darkness, what they were now officially calling, Infinite Darkness. Basically, it was just an updated version of a mapping drone, where it fed information to some software, which then produced a virtual map of what it scanned. However, even after all that, the engine room was found to be empty, except for the previous mapping drone, which they recovered.
    In each room they found hatchways going down, to where it was quickly determined the WARP power source was at. But that was as far as they got. Terrans and Tau both had long ago both agreed NOT to venture into any direct study of the WARP, except WARP Librarians who only used theoretical science. So the hatchways were left closed and locked, and eventually the same done to the engine room doors.
    Captain Bo’dane remained next to the Terminus Est with his Cruiser, a kind of watchful guardian. One day a small shuttle pulled up with full authorization to examine the ship. It entered though the hanger doorway and was small enough to land next to the large throne; it stayed for a few hours and left...like so many others had done before it.
    Approximately twelve hours later, Captain Bo’dane received a distress call. Formally, his job was to remain were he was and the call should’ve been directed to another spaceship; but, it had a very high authorization code, one almost as high as Tel’ba Mal herself.
    So the Captain had to leave. When he arrived at the place were the distress call was made, there was nothing there. When he returned to the Terminus Est...it was gone! Later, it was determined a giant WARP opening had formed, then closed. Everyone was hoping the large spaceship had returned to the WARP, hopefully--not to return. But, they all had to except the strong possibly that a third Chaos force had entered the game...and if it did, it would be bringing a very large warship with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

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