Joined: 12 Jul 2006
|Posted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 8:02 am Post subject: VS #7-"The Derelict" (Chapter 2)
Apollo needed to activate his forward landing lights in order to illuminate the darkened landing bay and give him a definite picture of what lay inside. To his relief, he saw there were no obstructions blocking the tarmac, which meant he could proceed and not abort his landing approach.
As his viper entered and braked to a stop he saw the aft section of the landing bay was illuminated and he could clearly see on all sides. Like a battlestar's landing bay, the walls were stark and gray with little else to distinguish it but some compartment doors that led to the vast network of corridors and passageways that he knew lay further inside the massive spaceship.
Feeling a wave of determination, he popped open his canopy and removed his helmet. The earlier readout on human life forms had already convinced him that the air would be normal and he felt an immediate sense of vindication that only increased his desire to explore further. He got up and dropped to the tarmac below, which felt as solid and sturdy beneath his feet as a battlestar did. Just as his feet hit the surface, he could hear Sheba's viper landing behind him and pulling up alongside his own craft. He stood alongside and waited for her to shut off her engines and then open her own canopy.
"Come on," he motioned.
"Give me a micron," she said as she removed first her helmet and then the fastener so her hair could hang freely. Then, after securing her laser pistol, she dropped down alongside him.
"Strange that the end of the landing bay has its lights on but the forward section doesn't." she didn't bother to conceal the trepidation she felt.
"Maintenance failure of some kind no doubt. That's probably true of a lot of sections aboard this ship. But at least for our purposes, everything's lit up for us to do some probing."
"Apollo, how much can we realistically probe? This ship is so big it would probably take the entire crew of the Galactica a sectan to cover all areas of it."
"All we need to do is make contact with one person," Apollo said determinedly, "And our micro-scanners work, so I think we stand a good chance of finding someone before we need to leave."
"Where do we begin? There are about six or seven compartment doors lining this area."
Apollo pointed to a set of doors in the wall directly aligned with their vipers on the right. "There. That way we know that when we go back through those doors, our vipers will be right in front of us."
"Before we proceed, I want the record to note that I still think this is a giant waste of time. The chances of finding something that can help us in the limited time we have are about as good as the Cylons giving us an apology for what they did to the Colonies."
"Noted. But try not to sound such a pessimistic note, and let's hope for the best."
"I'm just being a realist, to use an old expression of mine."
"We can't afford to be realists all the time," Apollo said as they walked over to the landing bay wall and came up to the compartment doors. "You know this landing bay section is almost alike to that of a battlestar inside and out. Has to indicate a common technological bond somewhere."
"Maybe," Sheba uneasily eyed the compartment doors, "Do those doors open?"
Apollo placed his hand on the bulkhead and found a button to press. Once he did, the doors slid open with a loud creak that echoed down the entire length of the landing bay. The sound alone caused a chill to go up Sheba's back. When she saw only a darkened interior inside the compartment, her sense of dread foreboding only increased.
"Apollo," she said, "I'm.....really not comfortable exploring this without special equipment."
The black-haired captain squinted to try and see if that would bring out any more details. He still saw only blackness.
"Let's get the emergency packs out of the vipers. They have illuminators inside. Also full mini-scans and micro-coms too."
Sheba had to resist the urge to groan as they went back to retrieve them. Several centons later, with the packs slung around their waists, they stood in front of the beckoning compartmentway.
"Okay, Captain," Sheba motioned, "You're in command, so you lead the way."
Apollo turned back and smiled at her, "Starbuck couldn't have said it better himself."
"I guess it just rubs off from working with you," she managed to force a smile back, but inside she didn't feel any easier.
Apollo stepped inside the darkened corridor and turned on his illuminator. The light shined down the length of the passageway revealing only nondescript hull plating and a pipe-laden ceiling. It was the kind of passageway that probably existed on all kinds of ships throughout the universe.
"Activating micro-scan," Apollo said as he detached the item from his belt, "And I get.....oh frack!"
"You get nothing, right?"
"No, I get interference that can't be overridden with these mini-devices."
"Lovely," Sheba said dryly, "So that means our unknown human contacts could be anywhere aboard this derelict. That's basically what this ship is, Apollo, because something this big with so many inactive components, can't possibly be functioning normally."
"We'll do what we can," Apollo said as they moved forward, the sounds of their boots echoing on the metal floor. Finally, they reached the end of the corridor and saw it opened out to a longer corridor.
"Looks like this runs the entire length of the ship, at least on this deck level," Apollo said and briefly turned off his illuminator. Unlike the corridor from the landing bay, this one was not completely immersed in darkness. Apollo and Sheba could make out the blinking lights of auxiliary power lining the walls which seemed to cast an eerie kind of reddish glow throughout the passageway.
"Well?" the brown-haired lieutenant asked.
"I'm open to suggestions before making a decision."
"Okay," Sheba came up alongside him. "We split up and explore this entire passageway to the ends and then rendezvous back here."
"You think that's a good idea?"
"If you're so hell-bent to explore this ship, then the more ground we cover, the better." Sheba said forcefully. She wasn't keen on the idea herself, but she also wanted to cut down on the amount of time she'd have to spend on this ship and it seemed like the sensible solution. "We keep our mini-coms active at all times and don't stop talking to each other for a micron. The instant one of us spots trouble, that means the other person starts running in the opposite direction as fast as possible."
"Okay," Apollo nodded, "And that means we stay on this deck level the whole time and don't go up or down."
"Precisely." she took a breath, "So do you want to go left or right?"
"I'll take the right, you take the left," Apollo said as he turned his illuminator back on and prepared to step into the passageway. Before he did he took one look back at Sheba and could see in the spotlight of the illuminator the concern on her face.
"We'll be okay," he suddenly sounded tender, "I'm sure of that."
"Of course," she managed to smile, and then felt a sudden urge to say she loved him, but decided that wouldn't be professional at a time like this. Instead, she clicked on her own illuminator and rechecked her utility pack to make sure her mini-com, micro-scanner and laser pistol were all at the ready. "As soon as we're out of sight of each other, that's when we turn on our mini-coms."
"Got it," Apollo nodded as he stepped out to the right and began to move down. Sheba followed in the opposite direction a micron later.
For the first centon, as they moved away from each other, both could still turn around and see the other's illuminator receding from view. Then, when both of them found themselves stepping through an open compartment door, they both turned back and could no longer see each other's light. Each warrior was now truly alone in their respective part of the derelict vessel.
At first, there was nothing in the passageway that caught either warrior's attention as they continued to move in opposite directions. The walls had a nondescript quality to them, while the blinking auxiliary lights offered nothing of interest either. So far, neither Apollo nor Sheba had seen any compartment doors alongside the corridor for them to investigate, which both found odd.
"Apollo?" Sheba held up her mini-com and radioed, "Have you seen anything yet?"
"Nope, not a thing. Just solid walls and light panels."
"I wonder if this was a service passageway of some kind with the landing bay the only accessible thing on this deck."
"Could be," Apollo shined his light at the ceiling as he moved on. "My micro-scanner still isn't registering anything but scrambled stuff."
"Strange that it doesn't affect communications though," Sheba noted as she bent down to step through another open compartment ring in the passageway. Once she was through, she finally caught sight of something on the side of the wall. Something that looked like a placard or sign of some kind. She came up to it and shined her illuminator beam over it, and as soon as she saw the lettering, she frowned.
"Apollo?" she radioed.
"Yeah?" his voice crackled back.
"I just spotted a sign on the wall and......Lords this is a real surprise."
"Apollo, I'm not completely sure but I think the inscription is Borellian."
"Borellian?" the black-haired captain stopped in his tracks. "How can that be? Borallus never developed spaceflight capability to go this far out into the galaxy."
(NOTE-The author takes the liberty of assuming that the planet "Borallus" mentioned in "Saga Of A Star World" is the home planet of the Borellian Nomen seen in "Man With Nine Lives" and "Baltar's Escape")
"I know, that's what's so strange about it. I'm....entering this into my scan data so it can be reviewed on the Galactica later. It sure doesn't make any sense, that's for sure."
"Well, that'd be just great if that human contact we scanned earlier turns out to be a Borellian Nomen," Apollo grunted, "Not the kind of person I would have wanted to make contact with."
"I know. I'll keep my eyes peeled."
The silence resumed as Sheba continued to proceed down the seemingly endless passageway. Now, she noticed a hole in the wall. As she shined her light on it, she could see what looked like a ladder just beyond. Drawing closer she could now see this was an auxiliary tunnel area that led to the decks below and above by ladder. Shining her illuminator down, she found to her surprise that she couldn't make out the bottom of the shaft.
Strange, she thought as she pulled the illuminator away and glanced down into what was now a black void. This ship isn't that big height-wise toward the bow. I ought to----
Abruptly, she stopped when her eyes suddenly saw something dart across her field of vision somewhere below. It had only been for a micron, and not enough time for her to make out any details, but she had been able to discern movement. From something that cast a reddish sort of color as far as she could tell.
"Apollo," she felt herself trembling as she activated the minicom, "I think one of our lifeform readings is somewhere below us on the lower decks." She managed to recap what she'd just witnessed. The captain hesitated before replying.
"That's.....an interesting report, Sheba, but I wouldn't recommend going down to investigate that."
"I don't have any intention of doing that," Sheba said firmly. "But.....I have to tell you Apollo, this place is starting to really spook me. How much exploring do you think we really need to do?"
Again, there was a brief hesitation. "Well....maybe not as much as I'd originally hoped. We'll give ourselves no more than a centar or two at best, and then we'll try to track where it's likely trajectory will take her before we can get a larger contingent from the Galactica back to investigate." He paused, "Just a micron, I------,"
"What?" Sheba felt the concern entering her voice. "Do you see something?"
"No....I thought there was a shadow of something somewhere behind me. No, there's nothing now. I can't understand why there aren't any adjacent rooms or compartments down this way to explore. The whole passageway couldn't possibly have been used for nothing but landing bay access. Not for something this big."
She could hear his footsteps over the minicom indicating that he was moving forward. Sheba wondered why she didn't resume her walk down the passageway, but for some reason she remained transfixed looking down into the void of the shaft, as if she were waiting for that.....thing to dart across her field of vision again.
Slowly, she resumed a standing position, and was about to move away from the shaft, when she heard Apollo's voice again.
"Finally! I think I've found an access point that leads to the other deck levels. You know this looks kind of familiar, almost like......" he stopped.
"Like what?" Sheba radioed.
"Like the central core hub of a Cylon baseship," Apollo seemed taken aback. "Not as big, but there's a core shaft going through the floor. It's like a more primitive version of what Starbuck and I saw when we infiltrated the baseship."
"This ship seems to be a strange amalgamation of designs," Sheba noted, "Colonial style landing bay, a Cylon central hub and sign in Borellian. Don't tell me what that could possibly add up to."
"Curiouser and Curiouser, to quote an old Caprican fairytale." The captain sounded more puzzled than nervous, "Shining my light inside there. Oh boy, yeah this a central core hub all right I can see all around the circumference of the shaft. It's not as big as a basestar because of the design variable of the rest of the ship. A lot less open space. It seems like there's a pretty large maze of deck levels and access points that leads into the hub, and this just happens to be the point from this passageway we're on."
"So that could mean that this ladder and shaft I'm at may not even lead to decks that feed into the hub."
"Could be. This ship is proving to be more intricate then I ever figured." Suddenly his voice dropped to a whisper, "I think I just spotted something moving at the bottom of the hub. Something moved across the floor. Just-----,"
"Apollo?" Sheba felt the alarm rise.
"Hey!" Apollo suddenly called out, "Please! Up here, do you-----,"
"Apollo! What do you see?"
"I'm not sure, I----," the captain sounded dumbfounded, "My illuminator only caught a glimpse of it and whoever it was didn't respond."
"What did it look like?"
"All I could make out was that it has arms and legs. It was gone in a flash."
"Apollo," Sheba felt her inner fear rising, "Either this shaft does lead to deck levels that hook up with the central hub and isn't as intricate as we thought, or else......." she trailed off.
Apollo though immediately understood what she meant, "Or else there's more than one kind of lifeform on this ship."
"Apollo, I'm really getting worried," she didn't want to use the term ‘scared'. "How much more time do we really need to spend here?"
The captain let out a reluctant sigh, "Maybe no more time at the rate this is going. I'll take just five more centons to see if there's a room or control center on this deck level to check out, and you do the same on your end. If we turn up nothing, then we head back and get out of here. Sound okay?"
"All right," Sheba said as she prepared to walk away from the shaft entryway.
Suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, the massive ship lurched violently to port, causing Sheba to stumble backward toward the open shaft.
Apollo felt the violent lurch as well. In his case, the lurch to port slammed him away from the shaft leading to the central core and back against the bulkhead wall, causing him to drop his illuminator which shattered to the ground and plunged the entire passageway into disorienting darkness. Then, before he could regain his bearings, the derelict vessel suddenly lurched in the opposite direction to starboard, sending the captain directly toward the open chasm.
Before her illuminator fell out of her hand and crashed to the floor, Sheba managed to grab for the rung of the ladder mounted on the side of the shaft. Her right hand grabbed the metallic rung, but before she could get her feet anchored on the ladder, she felt the massive lurch back in the other direction, and could feel most of the gear from her pack being dislodged where it clattered downward. She held onto the ladder with all her strength but soon felt herself sliding downward, out of control to the levels further down inside the ship.
Apollo could feel the horrible sensation of tumbling through open air in the dark and the only thought that went through his mind was how it was like a childhood nightmare come to life. The sensation of suddenly falling in the dark, with no sense of where it would end. But even in nightmares, one could always sense in the back of the mind that it wasn't real. Not so in this case.
Then, he felt the thud of his right side hitting the ground. Pain shot through his shoulder and ribs, but it took him a micron to realize nothing was broken. His hand touched the surface and he realized that the floor had a kind of rubberized padding to it, much like a crash mat of sorts. If it had been solid concrete or metal, the impact could have been more injurious than he could ever have imagined.
Groaning in pain, he struggled to a sitting position and tried to get his eyes to adjust to the darkness in the hopes of bringing out some detail. Finally, he had the sense of a few auxiliary light panels blinking somewhere, and then the gradual outline of the core area started to take shape through the foreboding black. He touched his belt and found his laser pistol still secure but as he probed further he could tell he'd lost his micro-scanner and ration kit. At that instant though, that didn't matter. What he needed to know was if one other item was still there.
He felt his first surge of relief as he felt the familiar contour of the mini-com and pulled it out, "Sheba?" he shouted into it. "Sheba, do you hear me?"
There was only a crackle of static, indicating that her mini-com was active somewhere, but whether she still had it or not, was a mystery.
"Sheba?" he shouted again. His words echoing eerily through the core shaft. "Sheba?"
Finally, he heard her drained, frightened voice, "I....Apollo, I'm.....okay, I think. I can't believe I still have my com!"
"Sheba, where are you?"
"I.....fell into the shaft. I.....grabbed hold of the ladder but I couldn't control myself and I slid.....I don't know how far down, and then I fell through into this passageway below. I.....Lords I can't even find where the shaft is again."
"Stay calm, Sheba. Stay calm. Try to get your bearings back."
"What bearings?" for the first time panic entered her voice. "Even if I could climb back up I haven't the slightest idea which would be the right deck level to get back on. I have no idea how many levels I fell."
"All right, okay. Just don't move. Let me think." Apollo's mind was racing. Both he and Sheba were disoriented and lost in the dark on some unknown alien spacecraft with strange lifeforms lurking somewhere in the shadows. He couldn't think of a more potentially terrifying situation to be thrust in. Even more terrifying then infiltrating the baseship had been.
"What about you?" Sheba asked, "Are you....where you were?"
"No, I fell down the shaft and I'm at the bottom of the central core. And I'm in the same fix you're in because even if I find a ladder, I don't know how many deck levels back up it is."
"You lost your illuminator too, I'll bet," an almost morbid chuckle entered her voice.
"Yeah," he felt the same sense of grim humor come over him. "So, I guess we've really got ourselves in a fix. But the key thing to do is to stay calm and to not stop talking to each other. You got that?"
"I read you," a hint of professionalism returned to her voice, but the fear was still obvious. "So what do we do?"
"I think what you ought to do is go back up that ladder and make your best guess as to which deck level to get out on. You've at least got a better fixed reference point with the shaft than I do."
"Okay," Sheba took a breath. "I....oh frack, I can't find the shaft! It's......good Lords of Kobol it's not there!"
"Calm down, Sheba, it's got to be there!" even Apollo was finding it hard to keep calm at this point.
"I'm telling you it's not there! I fell through into this passageway and......." she stopped.
"What? Sheba, what?"
"Some door slid shut and sealed off the hatch," her voice fell to a stupefied whisper. "Like as if after I fell out into the passageway it just closed behind me."
"Is there an access panel?"
"Not that I can tell. Let me feel......frack, no. And if there was, then how in Hades could I get something alien like this open?"
"Okay, okay. That takes care of that option," Apollo took a breath, "Sheba, you should at least have some sense of direction. If you're directly below where you were and you know which side of the bulkhead is where the shaft is, then you should be able to walk back in the direction of the landing bay."
"Which isn't much help, because I'm probably well beneath the landing bay area with no access passageway feeding into it like the one we took to exit the landing bay to the main passageway."
"Well at least it's a better idea then staying put or going in the other direction which we know would take you further away from where I am. Maybe even at that level there's a passageway that feeds into the central core and can at least get you to me."
"That's the biggest long shot I've ever heard of in my life. But.....I guess you're right. There's no other option, I........" her voice stopped again.
"What?" Apollo managed to get back to his feet, "What now?"
"Auxiliary power of some kind just kicked in," the stupefied whisper returned to her voice, "I can see in front of me now. The whole passageway has a kind of funny red alert glow to it."
"Never mind the color, if you can see in front of you, you should start moving. And pray that maybe there's a floor plan diagram somewhere along the bulkhead walls."
"What about you? Are you just going to stay put at the bottom of the shaft?"
"I'm clueless as to how to get out of here, but at least this is a fixed location I can keep my bearings on for now. I have a choice of a half dozen compartmentways to enter and there's no telling which part of the ship it would take me to." He paused and then chuckled mirthlessly, "I'm counting on you, Sheba."
"I'm coming," she tried to summon some confidence back into her voice, and then impulsively she said something she needed to say, "I love you, Apollo."
Her words relaxed the captain immediately. "I love you too, Sheba," he said tenderly, "We'll get out of this. The both of us. We've.....got a lot of things ahead of us to take care of."
"I know," she chuckled weakly, "And we're going to deal with them. I know that. Okay, I'm....starting to head down the passageway. I just hope that whatever those things we glimpsed don't decide to show up."
Her reminder of the lifeforms they had fleetingly glimpsed caused the chill of fear to return to Apollo and override all of the pain he still felt in his side. Warily, his eyes started to dart around the central core, looking to see if that figure he had briefly glimpsed would somehow reappear. But for now, there was only the darkness. And for now, Apollo didn't know if that was good or bad.
Slowly, Sheba made her way forward through the eerie red glow of the passageway, feeling only a slight twinge of pain in her ankle after her tumble down the ladder. She considered it miraculous that she still had her laser pistol and mini-com, since those were the two items she would have considered more irreplaceable than anything else. Even the illuminator seemed expendable by contrast. It was a lot more reassuring to be able to talk to Apollo during a frightening time as this was.
"I'm not seeing much difference between this passageway and the one we were on. Stark walls and ceiling. Nothing lining the walls. Okay, now I do see something mounted on the side, hold on I want to see what that is."
She stopped and inspected the protruding object on the left side of the bulkhead wall and she frowned in bewilderment.
"Apollo," Sheba radioed, "There's an old style borataon cannister mounted here. And the style is similar to ours. Bulkier than the ones we use now, but the basic design is the same. And.....I don't believe this, the printing is old Colonial style!"
"What do you mean?"
"Old Colonial style. The way equipment on Colonial ships used to be marked during the Second Era of the war up to about two hundred yahrens ago. They had a simple block letter format before they went to the bolder faced printing they use today." She paused, "Apollo, if this doesn't prove that whoever built this ship had some knowledge of the Colonies, I don't know what else could."
"I'm almost prepared to believe anything at this point," Apollo grunted. "Are you estimating how far you've gone from your starting point?"
"About thirty metrones so far. I....didn't stop to take a reading before I lost my micro-scanner, but I think on the upper passageway, I'd had to have gone at least a thousand to fifteen hundred metrones."
"Okay, once you get an approximate match to that figure, that's the time to start looking for a shaft that hopefully leads back up to the Landing Bay level if we're really lucky."
"Hopefully," Sheba nodded as she kept walking at her slow, careful pace. Then, she stopped in her tracks and felt the terror go through her once again as she saw through the red glow, a distinct dark shadow move across her field of vision far off in the distance.
"Apollo," she managed to whisper, "Whatever life form is on this vessel is on this deck level. I'm.....not sure about approaching it yet."
"Still got your laser?"
"Yes, but.....I don't know why, but I almost have the feeling it won't be any good."
"Look, we know that there's human life forms on this vessel. And even if there are aliens to deal with, they have to have weaknesses."
"I know, but.....in this kind of light, I don't think I could get the jump on them quick enough. Oh frack, there it is again!"
Sheba pressed herself against the side of the wall and found herself flush with the recessed area indicating a closed compartment door against her back. She kept her laser pistol in the air and her head cocked in the direction of where the shadow had again moved across her field of vision. This time, she could make out a slouched form, not able to tell if it was bipedal or walked on four legs. And her last glimpse was of something that seemed like the shape of a tail to her.
The brown haired warrior could feel her heart pounding madly as she tried to think of what it could mean. And then.....as her terror-filled mind tried to deal with this situation, her peripheral vision caught sight of something to her right. Another sign mounted on the wall right next to the doorway she was pressed up against. Slowly, she turned her head to read the distinct lettering on the sign.
And then.....her jaw fell open in horror at what she saw.
In old Colonial style lettering the words BETA DECK REJUVENATION CENTER.
And below it, a symbol. A symbol she knew from her military history books, and from a story she had read much about over the yahrens, and which had always fascinated her father.
"Apollo," she whispered in stunned horror, "Now I know why there are parts of this ship that resemble a battlestar. These parts *came* from a battlestar!"
"What?" Apollo's bewildered voice replied, "What are you talking about?"
"The Callisto," Sheba whispered, "Part of this derelict used to be the Battlestar Callisto."