What Happens at Tau Ceti, stays at Tau Ceti

ESB

Douglas Wu stood before a door. it was 13:40 Zulu, and the ambience of the alien reception chamber would've made him feel uneasy if he hadn't spent the last decade or so riding an over glorified rock between stars. The mood was somber nonetheless.

"It took us a while to figure out something was here," Elena Ratzin explained - one of the few scientists that's stayed behind when the Pioneer II visited the system. "Of course, by then we weren't able to do much other than some preliminary scans of the area with ground penetrating radar, and some probes - we had other concerns at the time, and the area wasn't really accessible for long periods of time given the weather and distance from the colony until you all arrived - with the exception of that one time during the Dawn Star's brief visit."

That was an understatement if he'd ever heard it. Elena and her colleagues had spent a little more than a decade eking out a tenuous existence on Tau Ceti III, better known as Simurgh. Of the original 25 settlers, only 19 remained when the Marathon III arrived in system 9 months ago. It was 2127, around June according to the relativistic clock.

"Well, it's your dig," Wu turned to her, disturbing dust in the recently unearthed chamber, clear of much of the dirt and debris that had crowded it until recently. "How does it compare to the sites at Sol and the Centauri's?"

"Currently it seems to fit the criteria in terms of layout and facilities for a primary site. Although... the design's a bit different, it seems to incorporate aesthetics from the S'pht - I hesitate to jump the gun here, as we don't have anything conclusive yet. However, if that proves to be the case - it means that there's more to the complexities of the last of the Jjaro than we expected, as there's only one group of S'pht that could've done this given its difference from the core worlds."

"The S'pht'Kr," nodded Wu. "I suppose that means we can expect a visit from the Inz in the next decade - could open up a can of worms with the S'pht delegation too," he sighed, holding his hand to his head. "...and the complex's core?" he asked in a lower voice.

"You'd best see for yourself, the archeology teams and work crews were bothered enough when they got to this section that we've been reluctant enough to re-enter, but given this was the most intact section - not that they had much to do anyway. Odds that the Thoth Node is more active than those at the other facilities. It may still be running something."

"Please do share," he asked as they walked toward the door.

"We think it may be a scrying program of some sort. The initial effect should dissipate within a minute."

Fingers of light crawled into his mind as he pushed open the door.


An uncertain future as the figure (you?) darts through the corridors, shapes lumbering malevolently around.

"A pawn? Please, that would discredit all that you've managed to help me accomplish despite the odds stacked against your favor." Duplicity and agendas grinning within circuits upon circuits, from hardware to wetware.

"This is the VonBraun - some parasite's infecting the crew! Don't know how long we can keep it under control-kssssssh." Static, loss, moments gone.


Message to All Marathon Terminals

Marathon Emergency Systems Broadcast

Today at 0820 hours, the Marathon came under surprise attack

from unknown hostile forces. The Marathon has sustained

serious damage.

At 0830 hours, alien forces boarded the Marathon. The current

situation is dire. All personnel are required to arm

themselves and fight for their lives.

Posted 2.08.39

"Your kind always has been good at killing things, whether it be your fellow man or elsewise. Such resilient meatbags - yes, quite a potent tool."


Words and thoughts, images and sounds - either way a threatening brink of sensations of elsewhere, otherwise times and places, yet inexplicably here. He didn't want to think about it too much, but neither could he fully put the glimpse out of his mind. He felt as if he almost knew one of those figures, those singular characters in a play of unknown scale.

"Identified, two humans, one male, one female," announced a synthetic voice in standard english.

"And we greet you emissary," Dr. Ratzin spat forth, forcing clarity through the encounter she surely experienced as well, he could see her sweating too. "I am Dr. Elena Ratzin, and this is Major Douglas Wu. We are here in pursuit of discovery.

The core, a box suspended in a thick beam of blue light in the middle of a large column, seemed to pulse - as did several other lights throughout the room of sleek and boxy forms. "That is acceptable, those that rise from Earth," the node responded after a minute. "But ultimately the endurance of what transpires is upon you. Whether or not it converges with my task, as well as your Advocate, is uncertain, yet to be seen - as does how the judgement of what you seek herein will render unto you. The mantle is, and waits regardless - I/We that am merely reside by it."

"How do you know that person, the Advocate?" Douglas found himself asking as he looking into the ethereal energies of the core, and undoubtedly, as they looked into him.

Again a pause, but the pulses seemed to be deeper this time - even drawing some sparks from modules in the wall. "A wanderer, a taskhand, one that offered themselves up first and will echo near infinite for it in pursuit of balance and its ends as it does befit them. Their compatibility allowed such a plea to be granted."

The room seemed to fade as its details drew into clarity. They noticed the bootprints in the dust, of a kind too familiar, and a sigil of a man whose legacy stretched lightyears.

"That one time the Dawn Star visited, huh?" said Wu dryly as their eyes rested on the small box.

"I suppose that explains what he was doing during the preliminary survey," the Doctor sighed as she gingerly lifted the object.

"He say anything that stand out to you at all?" Wu asked as they turned to the exit.

"From him?" she asked, deep in thought. "Once, right before they re-lofted the Dawn Star: "We will return, hopefully under good circumstances.""

The doors closed behind them as they left it to bask in its somber shadows; as the shade it cast clung to them under the alien light of a world that lay claim to them as much as they did to it.