Penumbra by MarkHirst ()
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Since those terrifying days on Hycaron II, I have studied the artefact closely trying to discern its meaning and purpose.
Looking back now, I realise that the discovery of the artefact was not through chance or luck. While I believe my colleagues were ignorant of its location, senior managers and project directors in the corporation must have had prior knowledge, sending us unerringly to the collapsed cave system where the strange rock lay.
I can only imagine that our presence or attempts to examine the item had triggered an automatic response, I don’t remember much of what happened next, and perhaps it is best that I forget.
I am assured that it was only a day or so later that the Captain found me, dragging me blinking into the stark light of a new day. I saw the dumpy ragged profile of her ship, sitting close by. It was nothing much to look at, but it only dawned on me later that this heap of junk had skipped through the Echolian cordon with ease.
When I woke again, days had passed. The Thunderbolt had again thumbed its nose at the Echolian Navy and left Hycaron II heading towards Candor and beyond.
I felt a pang of fear when I saw the rock again as it sat in its cradle in the hold of the ship. I didn’t want to go near it, but Captain Rhand insisted. Although there were many markings, she was particularly interested in one set that she believed to be the positions of stars. I had questions for her of course, but she wouldn’t answer them, not at first anyway.
I began to learn of the Lazloi and her belief that something was calling out to her in the void, across an area of space known as the Tiesian Gap. She had been in contact with the shadowy matriarchy over many years. They had given her technology, androids, and special capabilities for her ship. It seemed to me that they were simply using her, a proxy that could act on their behalf while they hid from view.
It would seem that three factions sought this rock, the Lazloi, the corporation, and the Brotherhood of Ankh, although I cannot pretend to know why. It seems strange now that the Lazloi were the only ones ignorant of its exact location.
I am puzzled and a little concerned though by the greater set of markings. My hand computer works furiously as I do to decipher what I believe to be complex mathematical constructs. The map has brought us here but the greater mystery continues to elude us.
When we began to explore the megastructure, I imagined that it might be some sort of sanctuary, a zoo or even a crashed spacecraft. Chambers filled with mechanisms the size of office blocks have indeed become the home of many forms of life, but they are merely visitors. We have also discovered other entrances into the structure, the most spectacular being a vast water inlet, easily mistaken for a small harbour.
For what seemed hours, we ventured down a tunnel whose cross section was like a cathedral, my gravimetric sensor telling me things that seemed impossible. Ahead, I could hear the sound of rushing water, the water moving faster in the light of our torches.
We have reached the end of the tunnel and the water is moving swiftly as it falls headlong over the edge of a precipice. In the utter darkness, I stare at the glowing gravimeter and laser-ranging sensors in disbelieve of the truth they are telling me.
We stand on the edge of a void so vast it defies imagination. A geometrically perfect void nearly twenty kilometres across sits below the megastructure, a cylinder that plunges down into the planet to a depth my sensors cannot reach…
-- Cyana Bristo, scientist, formerly with the Echolian Science Institute.
V3 figures with Shadow Dancer, Moon over Saturn and SF Remix suit. Strike and Sassy Hair. M3 with customised textures. Terrain created in Bryce.
Thanks for looking and for any comments.