Arc 1 : And so it begins
Chapter 2 : Awakenings
As Darnel clawed her way back to consciousness from the depths of the dream, Darnel felt as if she was floating alone in the void of space. The lower reptilian part of her brain unable to cope with the sensation flooded her with an instinctive panic, in it’s desperate need to feel something. The Cryo chamber’s release mechanism activated automatically and she was dumped unceremoniously onto the decking. Slick in cryo fluid which she coughed and hacked up as her body struggled to suddenly deal with an oxygen environment again.
As the fog slowly, ever so slowly cleared from her mind that earlier sense of wrongness returned, where was her XO, her Doctor or any of her other senior staff? Why wasn’t at least one of them spitting up fluid on the deck beside her? Why was she all alone? She waited for her eyes to refocus and the dizzying nausea to pass.
As she wobbled upright, gaining her feet she finally realised that clarity of thought was returning, she was steadying and her focus was sharpening. She opened her eyes and realised that her lack of sight wasn’t part of normal cryo revival. That the anxiety she was feeling from the pervasive darkness and quiet wasn’t imagined. She knew that this feeling would hinder her more then anything in her present situation so she pushed it down, compressed the fear and the worry into a knot in the pit of her stomach as she waved her hands about and fumbled for the cryo pod. Having relocated it she turned around and slowly yet precisely started the procedure that had been drummed into her for years.
By orientating herself off her pod she stumbled her way as she counted out her steps and reached out, taking hold of the auxiliary junction as she called out to the ship’s governing intelligence. “Computer, report status and readiness.” Silence however was to be her only answer. Now a measure of fear crept back in, and sought to warm that cold knot of anxiety she had buried in the pit of her stomach.
For if the computer was offline, then so too was main power. Auxiliary power was also out of the question, being used as it was to sustain the lives of her crew. Beyond that concern however was the blind fear, without main power they were drifting through the emptiness of space, god knows where or for how long.
Darnel stumbled back to her Cryo pod and pulled the Captain’s panic switch. The external lighting circuits on the pod activated. Good Darnel thought, at least the emergency revival system still has power. As she adjusted to the sudden illumination, the blind choking panic that would have engulfed her retreated. Now that she had light, she was able to find and activate the external emergency reactivation circuits on the three pods next to hers.
The pods downloaded each persons consciousness and awakened them from metabolic stasis, the doors recessed downwards and it’s occupants were released onto the decking. Darnel ignored the Doctor and her Executive Officer as she stood in front of the Chief Engineers pod, catching Commander Joran Deras as he fell.
She waited somewhat impatiently for the after effects of cryo to start wearing off and as Joran’s eyes started focusing he looked up and into the Captain’s hard set face. “C’ptin, wotsah hapeg?” Joran expressed his confusion, as he struggled to not slur his words. “Wahy do I feeal so sluggish, five years in cryo doesn’t do this.”. Darnel hesitated a moment, he had just vocalised albeit with difficulty what she’d been afraid to think.
“Unknown” said the Captain to her subordinate. “But whatever has happened, both Main and Reserve power appear to be out. The Intelligence isn’t responding, so it’s probably powered down. Get dressed, and while you’re doing that I’ll grab some of the reserve stores.”
Darnel squeezed Deras’ shoulder to reassure him. The situation may be serious but she had to appear unflappable, the very picture of a captain and in command, now more then ever. She got up and quickly glanced at the rest of her senior staff to check on their progress. Both of them were shaking off the disorientation and moving to lockers to take out what they needed to clean themselves up and dress themselves in their duty uniforms. Following protocol she went and cracked open the disaster locker and fished out some of the emergency portable lighting devices, some food and water, if they didn’t hydrate and get something into their stomachs they wouldn’t get very far before falling prey to cryo shock.
She tossed the canisters to her XO and pulled down a basic set of coveralls which she quickly slipped into, before they all downed the water and rations and then quickly limbered up as a final check before sounding off as ready. Each person set out to the station where they could be most efficient. Darnel to the bridge, her XO to damage control, the Doctor to Life Support, and Deras to Engineering.
Two hours later and Darnel breathed a sigh of relief, she had managed just managed to restore AI control after Deras had activated reserve power. The AI was booting up and vocal interface would be restored within a few minutes and with it internal communications. Deras had revived several of the crew as a part of restoring some form of power. Now that computer was re-establishing control maybe she would be able to get some answers about just what the hell had happened.
In the mean time though she was trying to reroute power and bypass a few safeties to get the emergency transponder and communications system online. Her first instinct had been to try and access the deep space sensor array to verify their position but there was a highly sophisticated encryption cipher preventing access. She was lost in thought and the sound of a scuffed boot on the decking behind her made Darnel snap turn and crouch down, bringing her beam rifle to bear on the hatch as she scanned the semi-lit room for threats.
Since awakening to this dark and cold ship she had developed a jumpiness to her movements. Any sudden or unexpected noise now was enough to set it off, and it wasn’t until she heard regular footfalls, and then the voices of her officers that she re-slung her weapon and waited for them walk through the hatch. By the looks on their faces, the situation was dire indeed.
“I’m done here gentlemen, let’s move to my office, so the intelligence can also participate.” They moved to her office to conduct the initial briefing which was short, and painted a bleak outlook.
Her XO a grizzled fleet veteran stood first and said, “Some good news. Both the outer and inner hulls are intact. Several sections have been depressurised but overall structural damage is minor and contained in to only relatively few sections.” Before retaking his seat.
“Thank you Colonel Granger,” she said. “Commander Deras?”
Deras’ assessment was much less optimistic “ Main power is currently out of the question. The Matter/Anti-Matter reactor does not respond when we attempt cold start procedures and until I get the entire reactor assembly disassembled I won’t know why. It could be anything from a failed control board to something more but I need considerably more personell to even think about getting into that. We currently have a single fusion reactor online. That’ll power most basic ships systems, including navigational and radiation shields, life support, and carrier functions. But anything that requires some serious oomox like weapons and main shields….” At this Deras just shook his head and sat back down.
The Doctor, who had left a cushy fleet assignment for this posting stood up to finish off the report. “Now that reserve power is back online, life support has been restored, the ship is returning to nominal levels of heat and atmosphere on all decks. I performed a physical inspection of all crew stasis pods. During the voyage we sustained a casualty, by the look of it his stasis pod failed shortly after launch. Cause of the failure is currently unknown.”
Darnel stood and walked over to stare out at blackness of space through the permanent viewpane. “Suggestions?” she asked without turning to look at her officers as she mulled over the fact that most of the critical systems were either offline or had suffered inexplicable damage, as the outer hull was still intact.
It didn’t take long for the discussion going on behind her to fall into bickering as they each put forth half solutions form their own various perspectives. She let it just wash into the background her focus elsewhere. Amidst their clamouring there was a simple solution that in their haste to deny the painfully obvious they weren’t considering.
That the way back might be denied to them, they had yet to establish an exact positional fix but all speculation based upon what information was at hand currently wasn’t promising for either correcting their course deviation or returning to Imperial space. The key rub was the unknown amount of time and therefore distance the ship had spent drifting throughout space. They could be anywhere, probably still within the same galaxy but they couldn’t be certain.
The amount of time that they had potentially drifted, it was possible that the Empire, if it even still stood would have changed beyond all recognition. Even if they could make it back through whatever space with all it’s unknown navigational hazards They would still be regarded as outsiders, strangers to their own people. All their kin long dead and even if they were accepted; they would have to re-certify for the basic competencies for their professions.
Meaning this crew’s long years of dedication and sacrifice to achieve this assignment would have been wasted. At that point the lighting within the room changed and a tone announcing the AI’s presence sounded. Excellent, it had finally finished it’s own startup sequence. “Computer,” she said in a firm commanding voice. At this her officers broke off their contentious discussion and turned to look at Soren. “Yes, Captain Soren?” the AI responded.
“Use all available resources to compute current position and plot probable course vectors from last known position before power outage” She asked, still looking out the window as her Officers listened to the exchange.
A section of the Captain’s wall lit up with a holographic projection showing the universe from a two-dimensional top down view. The map was marked with the main astronomical features of the Empire, it’s worlds, borders and transit lanes glowed markedly. The Empire occupied nearly a half of the upper right quadrant of the Galaxy, yet their current position was somewhere within the outer spiral of the lower left quadrant of this Galactic spiral.
The Computer announced “Captain I believe I have achieved an accurate positional fix, however verification of navigational history is currently not possible.” The AI then tightened the focus in incremental jumps and overlaid several quasars, pulsars and Solar bodies with accompanying multi-spectral analysis of their light and radiation emissions as well as a graviton displacement analysis to determine stellar drift. The display then changed from a two dimensional display to a three dimensional display showing a detailed cartographic view of the surrounding space.
The Computer then announced “Verification of positional fix has been completed, positional fix computed accurately to within an error margin of approximately 7 LDU.” Darnel turned around and looked at the stellar grid overlaid a larger galactic map and asked “Computer, what was the nature of verification for this positional fix?”
The Computer replied momentarily “Positional fix was verified using short range visual sensors to identify stellar formations, spectral sensors to analysis the waveform emissions, which was then compared to all recorded stellar formations. Record match was obtained within a 72.987 percent degree of certainty against last transmission from the Gallos 5 spatial probe, launched during the 56th year of the reign of Jelnar the 153rd. Transmission was analysed by Deep Space Telemetry in…”
Soren allowed the computer’s flow of information to continue for a moment longer, and then commanded “Enough.” She turned to her Officer’s and said, “Revive the rest of the crew, I want a full account of the damage the ship has suffered within the hour and have sufficient repairs made to bring this ship back to at least the semblance of operational status within 12 hours,”
“I also want a Combat Air Patrol launched immediately, even if you have to put the pilot’s in the ships and simply decompress the entire launch bay and recon missions to commence as soon as possible after the CAP has been launched. As far as I’m concerned we are in enemy held territory until proven otherwise.”
Colonel Granger tried to speak after she had issued her orders, but she simply stared him down and then said, “Dismissed.” Denning and the others filed off to revive their respective staffs and left Soren alone in her office as she turned back to her contemplation of the stars.