It was a sunny morning with clear skies in Sonora, Texas, the desert fauna was flourishing in the dry air. Along a remote stretch of dusty road was a modest country home. Within, the modernly furnished living room was filled with the sounds of laughter. A happy toddler was playing along with a children's entertainment program on a hybrid gaming system. Billy sat in front of the holographic screen, interacting with drifting holographic objects, which the program used to subtly provide some elementary teachings. Laura, the child's mother sat on a love seat nearby, doing some reading on a tablet when her mobile began to ring. She recognizes the number and answers the call.
"Good morning, Laura. This is Sargent Parks" says the caller.
"Hello, Sargent. Thank you for returning my call" Laura replies.
"It's no problem. I hope you're doing well, how is your son?"
"Billy has been behaving, he's excited to start school" she explains.
"That's good, I'm glad to hear that. Regarding your former husband, I've looked into his current status but I'm only getting any cooperation from military sources for some reason" Sargent park explains.
"Our high command has records that clearly document him leaving for and arriving at the Phobos colony. According to Union Aerospace, however, they have nothing in their records" he reveals.
"You have to be kidding me" Laura fumes.
"Well, I've personally contacted and interviewed survivors of the Phobos accident and I found multiple witnesses that can confirm he was on the station. I made a report of my findings and brought them to the attention of our corporate contacts within UAC. After making multiple inquiries with them, it seems like I'm being stonewalled" Parks explains.
"What? Why would they do that?" Laura stammers.
"I know this is difficult for you to hear. This is certainly unusual and there could be various reasons for it, but I'm not getting enough cooperation to say what. I'm convinced you're telling the truth but I can't find anymore information and he isn't among the rescued colonists" Sargent Parks explains.
"Okay... Well, I do appreciate all that you've done" Laura said.
"I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help to you. I don't understand why UAC isn't being more cooperative" Parks says.
'I understand" Laura replies.
"The military is equally concerned with his whereabouts, I'll be in contact if I find out anything else, but for now, I need to resume my duties" Parks says.
"Thank you for your help, Sargent" Laura said.
"Goodbye, Laura" Parks says before hanging up the call.
Laura puts down her mobile, feeling distraught as she wondered how she would explain this to her son.
The surface of the red planet dominates the port-side view of the UAAF Vapour as it completed the approach to the Phobos moon base, it manoeuvred alongside and aligns its docking mechanism with the colony's receiving port. The disgraced Paranormal Division devotees were escorted to the air-lock by Marines, their equipment was already loaded into the chamber when they walked inside wearing their corporate designed combat armour. The doors closed behind them, Dr. Carmichael was standing at the rear of the group, Mason, Nexson, Banks and Kronos were in front. A few moments passed as they waited in the air-lock chamber.
"We're about to open the door" crackles the intercom.
The door gradually raises, revealing a dark and empty corridor. They cautiously strode into the facility, Carmichael follows the others as they moved out of the air-lock, she places her equipment case on the floor outside the door and silently backs into the chamber. After the others had stepped into the station, the door slides back into place and seals shut. She glances from the port on the door, watching her colleagues stray into the station a short distance.
Banks opened his case and activates a combat robot, the snarls of nearby creatures already reaching their ears. Kronos and Mason strayed slowly into the adjoining corridors with weapons drawn. The robot powers up, it began pacing and scanning the area as the devotees began firing on approaching creatures, demonic hissing and shrieks echoed through the halls. Banks turned to pick up his rifle when he noticed that Carmichael was missing, before overhearing the air-lock's cycling.
"What-?!" Banks shouts.
Nexson looks over as the others continued shooting upon the advancing creatures."No! Where is Susan!?" Nexson loudly asks.
Allan and Victor exchange a look before glancing back to confirm that Susan had bailed on the mission. Banks steps to the door and looks through the port, seeing Susan on the other side staring back. Susan smirks and casually waves goodbye before exiting the other side of the airlock door. Banks beats his fist against the door.
"Traitor!" Banks cries.
Nexson grabs Banks by the shoulders, spins him around and looks him square in the eyes.
"If you don't get focused, you're going to get all of us killed!" Rupert shouts.
"Alright, alright" he replies.
Banks was still fuming with anger.
"Breath, Will" Nexson instructs.
Banks takes a deep breath and manages to relax, he then picks up his weapon.
"We need to gather these specimens and get out of here, we'll worry about her later" Kronos states.
The Airlock door opens again on the opposing side, Dr. Carmichael steps out of the chamber and back onto the decks of the UAAF Vapour. Captain Revok was waiting on the other side, he takes her plasma rifle and hands it to a crew mate to put away as Susan removes her helmet.
"Well, it looks like your plan worked" she says.
"It wasn't my idea, but if we went about it any other way it would seriously jeopardize the mission" Revok explains.
"I'm really not pleased with dropping out on them, but I have no intention of risking my life on that station if I don't need to" Susan states.
Captain Revok pulls a small transmitter from his pocket.
"Bridge, begin undocking procedure and move the ship to the flight plan's predetermined coordinates" Revok commands into the device.
"Yes, sir" came the voice of a bridge commander.
The Vapour's bridge crew carries out Revok's orders, they release the docking clamps, activate reverse thrusters and move the ship a safe distance from the station. Susan and Revok walked together along the ship's corridor.
"I understand it if you want to head home as soon as you can. Assuming they make it back in one piece, your former colleagues aren't going to be happy when they get back. There's a ship ready to return you to Earth, the military will retrieve it after you arrive" the Captain explains.
"Thank you, Michael. I know you're only doing as you're ordered but I appreciate all you've done for me" Susan says.
"It's no problem, I've seen what those aliens are like for myself and I don't like the thought of putting anyone in that scenario. I realize there's a lot going on, but I'd like to invite you for dinner before you leave. I can lock down some areas to keep your friends in isolated corridors should they get back early" Revok offers.
"I just might take you up on that" she replies.
Location: Leipzig, Germany, UAC Administration Building
Within the walls of the office tower, UAC President, Charles Rosenburg and the Chairman of the Board, Howard Dale moved through a spacious hallway being trailed by a group of advisors. The President was attending to corporate reports on a data sheet while the Chairman spoke into his mobile.
"That might be helpful. Hold onto the reports for now, the hearing is about to begin. Send the entire file to my assistant and if those prove to be relevant, they could contribute to our case" Howard was saying.
The pair were approaching the doors to the meeting room.
"I'll talk later, bye" the Chairman says, ending the call as they entered.
They walk into the spacious meeting hall and take their seats around the conference table. The other seats were occupied by other corporate union council members or their holographic avatars. After a moment of preparation, the Board Chairman begins the session.
"Council is now in session. Good afternoon, board members. Thank you for attending this urgent session. This council has been summoned to discuss the disturbing reports implicating one of our administrative divisions. I understand Councillor Weaver has been preparing reports on the matter, Councillor?" The Chairman says.
"Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It was after tracing the security credentials of personnel found to have been used for the purpose of illicitly accessing sensitive equipment during the recent incident at a nearby union facility which led me to investigate the activities of the administrative body of our Exis site, located in the Norwegian capital. After reviewing reports, it became apparent that illicit activities may have been occurring far earlier. There are numerous unusual instances to speak of" Councillor Weaver begins.
"The storage accessed during the incident were reserved for the teleportation project, their inventory reveals that important replacement parts were removed. Now, as if that hadn't caused enough uncertainty to the portal project's success, but there has also been unauthorized access to the project's data, specifically the information collected was regarding extra-dimensional calculations, coordinates, maps and photographs" the Councillor explains.
"I must point out, the UAC president interjects, the experience and qualifications of our project's science team makes them the only ones to have any business handling or accessing that data. The Project Director has gone through great lengths to explain to me that the protocols around accessing extra-dimensional planes is extremely delicate and potentially dangerous" President Rosenburg says.
"Thank you, Mr. President. I know that you monitor the project closely, Weaver continues, There are also reports from employees of strange behaviour from management, excessive secrecy, even some violence. Then there are persistent rumours of a portal project being managed by their directors. We actually have just received a photo of the construction that was leaked by an insider just this morning" the Councillor reports.
"Action must be taken before it's too late. I would suggest a full operations review carried out immediately, all in support?" The Chairman declares.
Unanimous votes of approval came from the seated and holographic councillors.
"Councillor Weaver has already been managing this case and has volunteered for conducting the inquiry. Councillor, I know you already understand but the situation at the Exis site is far too dangerous to be left unchecked. I want that teleporter found" the Chairman demands.