Great, invisible town, Changing my world upside down, City of power and pleasure. All they want is our treasure!
Plato’s team prepared and ready continue their journey on the “dark side”. Maps are not very detailed, massive magnetic storms disrupting work of the electronic equipment. Just following the calculations, they found an big artificial moon. This moon seems to be the mystic and legendary city of treasure. Place for crimes, gambling, illegal trading, assassins. All the information that they found is a digital photos from the illegal space races that are hosted by this city. Only a small group is able to go to the city because is too dangerous for big newcomers groups. They have to pretend for young rich man and two of his lovers seeking some pleasure. A mysterious man introduce himself for an oracle and insist that he knows all about the “lucky star”. He tells them all his knowledge: that comet is not with natural origin but an ancient data bank with own intelligence. He tells also his unfortunate story that he is exiled on this city by insidious lord.
Plato’s ship moved though the vast sea of stars, moving further and further away from the organized systems, further from where man was meant to be. The crew lost most of the beacons, only those left by the mining systems were left to connect them to where they were. “We got the mining vessel on sensors.” Jet replied. “We will come up on it in ten minutes.” “Is it giving a signal?” Seeker asked. “Life support? Gravity? What about docking computer.” “All of the above.” Greta replied from her seat by ops. “Docking computer and gravity is strong. Life support is a bit off, air might be thin and cold but well within survivable parameters.” “They really did leave in a hurry.” Seeker commented. “Left the porch lights on.” “Prepare approach vector and prepare to dock.” Plato ordered. “I will go aboard with Tanya and we will download the computers black box.” Shortly the ship docked with the massive vessel and Tanya met with Plato in the airlock. Both were in space suits and prepared the gear that they would need to traverse the ship. The docking cycle went through its checks automatically, soon opening up into the old vessel. The pair began to move though the ship, noticing a strange sight. It was as if all manner of systems and technology were stripped down. As the pair came around a corner they noticed a large mechanical construct moving around. It looked as though it were hobbled together by technology and designed to do one thing, to consume technology and destroy anything in its path. “You ever seen anything like this? Plato asked. “I have heard rumors.” Tanya replied. “Technology in deep space isolation, left on and with no guidance or commands. They know they have a purpose, a reason for being, but cannot derive anything to do. So, they just survive, cannibalizing anything they can find and adding it to themselves.” “Are they dangerous?” Plato asked. “Very.” Tanya replied. “There was a deep space recognizance vessel found a survey ship where the machines had done this. The second they saw biological life they attacked, and with extreme prejudice. They ended up tearing both ships apart, reproducing themselves.” “We have weapons.” Plato suggested. “We could put them down.” “I wouldn’t.” Tanya replied. “This ship is in a very fragile state and any manner of explosive decompression could tear it apart. Also, these things are randomized and made form any number of ship bound machines, there is no way to know how to effectively drop them and each shot threatens summoning more.” Plato decided that the facility would have to be quarantined in order to protect the rest of the system from a possible outbreak. He thought back to his research on how a ship like this was to deal with such a thing. Though the lab like area had locking safety doors, there was a procedure to engage them…especially if they did not want to be trapped inside with the machine. They had no way to clear the virus from machines but had to get the information in order to continue their mission. Plato gestured for Tanya to follow him as he slowly made his way around the lab equipment, careful not to alert the ravenous machine. There was a control panel across the room and it cloud be used to set a timer to lock down the room. Plato managed to get to the control pad and had to decide how to set it. He was about ten feet from the door and needed to get to it, open it and close it behind her in time for it to lock. The idea was to trap the creature in the lab and hope for the best in the halls beyond. He began to hit the buttons but something he did not anticipate happened…the buttons had key tones. The beeping immediately alerted the machine who sprung up, turning and looking right at Plato and Tanya. Plato hastily punched in ten seconds and ran across the room. He could hear the machine moving to intercept. He grabbed the door, ripped it open, waited for Tanya to get through, but as he closed it behind them the machines metallic arm blocked it from closing. Plato pushed on the door, desperate to close it but the door simply beeped an error, unable to complete the lockdown. The pair just turned and ran, realizing whatever tactic they would use against the machine was not where they were. Tanya rounded the corner first and saw a vent above, she worked fast, pushing a chair over to the vent and climbed up on it. She struggled to remove the vent as she heard the robotic beast heave the heavy door open and give chase. “Will we fit in our suits?” Plato asked. “Yeah.” Tanya said as she managed to rip the cover off of the vent and hastily climbed inside. The space suits they were wearing were compact and offered full movement. Soon both were in the vents, crawling toward the next area. “So why are we taking the vent?” Plato asked as he continued to crawl. “Are we hoping to lose the creature?” “From my studies in the briefing on this ship there should be a monitoring room was at the other end.” Tanya explained. “The way we were going lead to the inner area and is the most likely area for more of these things.” Plato wondered if the machine were smart enough to follow them but as he heard metallic clawing behind them he got his answer. The pair began to crawl faster, knowing that at any moment they could expect to be grabbed and would not be able to effectively fight the machine in close quarters. Tanya pushed open the vent, climbing out and falling into the monitoring room, Plato close behind. Plato knew that they would have but a few seconds to protect themselves from their pursuer. Tanya shook off the fall and grabbed the vent cover. She put it back in place and worked as fast as she could to reattach it as Plato pushed a large shelf in front of the vent and blocking it off. Even with the savage strength of one of these machines they would not have the leverage to move the grate and the shelf. Both sighed in relief, taking only a moment as they had much more work to do. Tanya sat herself down by the monitoring controls, which were luckily still intact. She too stock of things and see what their next steps would be. After doublechecking that the room was secure, Plato joined Tanya as she went through the monitors and began to scan the ship. As much as they looked, no matter where the cameras panned, it seemed the mechanical creatures were everywhere. They had been lucky when they came in that she did not startle a large number of them. There was no alarm, no sign of distress, the facility had just gone silent when it was abandoned. Tanya pulled up the camera by the control room and saw that there appeared to be no one there. This calamity had occurred long after the people left and there seemed to be no one left in command of the bridge, the security doors were still closed. “The control bridge is likely where the information we need is.” Plato replied. “There is a hard copy drive and we need to take it and get the hell out of here.” “I can stay here and use what systems I can access to clear you the best path I can.” Tanya explained. “You go for the bridge and I will try and create a path back to the ship. We reunite there in ten minutes.” “Sounds good to me.” Plato agreed. “Be careful.” “You too.” Tanya agreed.” Plato left through the door to the monitoring room and was relieved to find none of the creatures waiting for him. He had a weapon but knew if he got swarmed he would not last long. The machines were all likely linked to the base, it was likely if he got to the control room he could do something to top the machines. He knew he could not afford to let them get onto his ship. There were far too many machines inside the compound so his best chance was to go outside. He was wearing a spacesuit with magnetic boots and a small spacewalk was the quickest way to the command bridge. Plato slowly opened the outer airlock door and went outside. The inner creaking’s and sounds were gone, replaced by the silent darkness of space. He knew he did not have much time and had to get to the command area quickly. The magnetic boots worked well but were not foolproof. and a misplaced step could easily leave Plato adrift in space where even his own ship might not be able to rescue him. As he got within sight of the emergency airlock connected to the command bridge he saw a gap between the area he was and where he needed to be. It was only a five-foot gap but with the dangers involved it felt much further. It would take him longer than he had to climb down or go around and he had to make the jump and try to catch the bracing bar on the other side. Plato looked back and saw a pair of the machines coming up and spotting him on the outer hull. They were using their metallic claws to crawl along the hull and were gunning right for him. If he was going to make the jump he would have one shot and if he missed he would fall likely be lost to the void. He backed up, giving himself a bit of a run at it. His heart raced and he struggled to keep the alternatives out of his head. Plato ran, desperate to gain enough speed and made the jump. He disengaged his boots at the last second, sailing weightless through the air toward the airlock door. Just as he thought he might have been off the railings came into reach and he grabbed them. He righted himself and engaged the door. As he looked back he saw the machines miss their trajectories and beginning to float off into space where they would eventually freeze and never endanger anyone again. Plato was encouraged but still had a lot of creatures in the ship to worry about. Though the control room did not have the monitoring equipment of the monitoring room it was evident the ship was in big trouble. There was all manner of emergency lights on and it seemed that the operative nature of the abandoned vessel would not much longer hold out. She decided that the facility was too dangerous and accessed the reactor that powered it. She set it to power up and overload. The area was remote so the explosion would not hurt anyone but bury all the corrupted machines in rubble and ice. She pulled the black box, a hard drive that had all the information stored on the base. If there were answers to be found, they would be found there. She pulled the box and hastily made her way back outside to go back to her ride. It seemed that most of the machines had indeed been shit down but she did not have time to make sure. Soon she was out, running across the landscape and to the waiting chopper. It took off, leaving the facility behind. Moments later the snowstorm lit up in light as the reactor exploded, annihilating the base and all of the corrupted machines that resided inside it. The ships databanks were not in good condition but Plato soon found the black box he was looking for. He pulled it, secured it and went to work on the other problem. He saw that Tanya had made it back to the ship and was secure aboard. She radioed that the ship was secure, no creatures on board and would reposition to pick him up at the other bridge. The ship could not dock there but compared to the uncontrolled space jump he had already done, that one would be no problem. He easily hacked into the unsecured ships controls and set the reactor to over prime. Within five minutes the cursed ship would be no more. Plato hastily went back out through the air lock, space jumping from the one ship to the other. A remote control mechanical arm caught him and pulled him to the airlock. Just as he came in he ordered she ship to get a safe distance away and as he arrived on the bridge he saw a bright flash of an explosion on the monitors. The abandoned ship was no more and the mechanical beasts were returned to oblivion.
After a quick rest the crew came together and began to go over the black box. The device did indeed have the recordings of the star they were in search for and the ship had its course. Plato eagerly ordered Jet to set co-ordinates and they got underway, in search of the treasure they all dreamt of. The ship passed from charted space into a place known as the Dark Side. It was a place where few have ventured and even fewer have returned. Deep space probes and unmanned vessels were the only things recorded to have come from this area. Part of the reason that it was known as the Dark Side was the distance from normal communication channels. This was a place that had strong electromagnetic forces and most signals got lost in the endless nothing. The crew was encouraged but there was also a profound sense of aloneness. If something were to happen to the ship there would be no rescue. If they encountered a problem that they could not fix it would be the end. There were countless vessels out here that had become lost or stranded and no one wanted to imagine what had happened to them in their final hours, stranded in the nothingness. Plato was not immune to this feeling of nothing. Even with his boldness and passion he could feel the oppressive power of the darkness around him and even his hope seemed to be starting to tarnish. He had begun to wonder if there actually was anything out there when he got called to the bridge. He hastily went up, deciding something, anything to do to break up the nothing. Many of the controls were having issues, distorted by the strong magnetic forces of the system. “Do we have anything?” Plato asked. “Any sign of the Lucky Star?” “No…but we have something else.” Seeker replied. “We are detecting signals.” “Signals?” Plato asked. “I thought there was nothing out here.” “There isn’t supposed to be.” Seeker replied. “But there seems to be something here…an artificial moon in orbit of a gas giant known as Hyperion one.” “An artificial moon?” Plato asked. “What would something be doing out here…how could it be built.” “We are getting a signal.” Greta recalled. “They are asking to speak to the captain.” “Route it to speakers.” Plato replied. Greta nodded as the speakers picked up, the voice of a jovial man piping up. “Welcome to the city of treasure, I am known as the caller. To have found us you are either one who has come to do business or an interspace authority vessel in search of illegal activities. If it is the former, then welcome you may approach, if it is the latter, turn around now or we will shred your ship to scrap in ten seconds.” “It is the former.” Plato eagerly agreed. “My name is Captain…Smith…and we seek to…avail yourselves of your services. Discretely of course.” “That is most welcomed.” Caller replied. “The city is a bit of a rough place for newcomers, please come board in a small group…may I ask what this is for? Trading? Gambling? Pleasure?” “I would not like to put too fine a point on it.” Plato replied. “I will bring myself and my two…companions and we will just see what we might enjoy.” “This is a place of few asked questions.” Caller replied. “I am sending docking telemetry and you and your lovers can come aboard once you are docked.” “Thank you.” Plato replied. “We look forward to what we find.” Greta cut off the communicator and looked to Plato. “Lovers?” Plato shrugged. “The less they ask of why we are really there the better. If this place is indeed the pirate contraband station that I think it is we will need to be discreet. “It is a good idea for you to go with Greta and Tanya.” Seeker replied. “You are all young and it is unlikely that any of you will be recognised.” Shortly the trio was aboard the station and walking through a large port area. It was filled with people from all over, each having their own reason from hiding do far from civilized space. It was easy for people like Plato to assume there was nothing out here but there were indeed some people who would use such danger and isolation for their own privacy. He was shocked to the scope and size of the place. There was all manner of illegal and contraband goods and weaponry for sale, vast auctions going on for stolen gear and even ships. There was gambling where vast fortunes changed hands and all manner of pleasure, legal and illegal could be bought as simply as the other goods. The trip were dressed as inconspicuously as possible, Greta and Tanya dressed to look like his companions and no one seemed to pay much notice. Everyone had their own agenda and few seemed to care about anyone else’s…that was until a strange man with a scar over one of his eyes stepped out. “Captain Plato.” The man said. “I think we should talk.” Plato looked at him with a curious expression. “I think you have me mistaken with someone else.” “No need for subterfuge.” The man replied. “You may call me Oracle and I have information that would be of great use to you but you must come inside. It is dangerous to speak of such things outside.” Plato decided that the man did seem to know much he could not have easily known and joined him in his little shop, which seemed to sell curiosities and other ancient artifacts. “What can you tell me of this place?” Plato asked. “It seems to be unreal how it exits out here in the Dark Side.” “That is what they want.” Oracle responded. “You would be surprised just how many people in the civilized systems know it is here. Only the most corrupt, rich and powerful can afford to come here and much money is spent to keep it a secret. There are governors of worlds here, military officials and others that desire no one to think this lace was anything more than a rumor. This was once just a small asteroid but a man who calls himself the Dark Lord found it on a self imposed excile of civilized space. He used it as his base and built it up more and more until it had become what you now see. He is a dangerous man and someone that you do not want to mess with.” Plato nodded. “How do you know about me? How do you know who I am?” “I know a lot more than anyone can imagine.” Oracle explained. “I have means of uncovering information that few could even understand. I know who you ae and that you are after the Lucky Star.” “How could you possibly know that?” Plato asked. “You aren’t after it yourself?” “Of course not.” Oracle responded. “I am a collector of information and my searches gained too much attention. I am not a resident here, I am a prisoner. I cannot leave but I can be of help to you. I fear however, that the Dark Lord wants the lucky star and I would much prefer you get it before he.” “Ok, I’m listening.” Plato agreed. “Tell me what you know.” Oracle nodded. “It is not a star or naturally occurring phenomenon. The Lucky Star is in fact an ancient data bank from a place in this universe much older than anything we know. It is a vast compendium of knowledge preserved for all of time. It is like a vessel, guided by a powerful intelligence, kept as it’s warden for one to claim the information. To someone who prides in knowledge and discovery, this could lead to new advancement in the galaxy and a bright future for it’s people. To someone of less scrupulous intentions it could be a powerful weapon that could lead to countless death and destruction.” “I can imagine what the so called Dark Lord wants it for.” Plato agreed. “How close is he?” “Not as close as you.” Oracle replied. “Whereas you are using science and planning he is using resources and trial and error. He is setting up ships with long range capability and trying to find it by luck and force. Though your way is more efficient, he will eventually get lucky and I wish to give you the head start. I will give you a disc that has all of the information of the failed attempts…if for no other reason it might narrow down your search even more.” “Thank you.” Plato said as he accepted the disc. “What can I do for you in exchange.” “Protect the knowledge in the Lucky Star.” Oracle responded. “Use it to clean up this area and get rid of this accursed place.” “I will do it.” Plato agreed. “I will set you free from this place.” “Thank you.” Oracle agreed. “But go now…I am sure he knows you are here with me by now.” The trip hastily left the shop and saw a group of armed marching toward the shop. Plato looked around and saw a small grav vehicle. “Tanya, can you get this thing running?” Plato asked. Tanya did not reply, instead using her tools in a blur and firing up the engines. Plato took the controls as the others got on, spinning it around and flying through the crowded street, laser shots went off, striking the vehicle but doing little damage. Plato dodged around, trying to keep obstacles between him and his pursuers. Soon he got back to the airlock, crashing the vehicle though and running with the others back to the portal of his ship. The chaos was enough to let them get aboard and he signalled for Jet to disembark as fast as he could. As Plato got to the bridge he found them scrambling to get around security measures. Greta took her place at ops as Plato sat down. “Any ideas Jet?” Plato asked. “I don’t want to get shredded by their guns.” “This is not a moon but it does have its own gravity.” Jet said as he smiled and lurched the controls. “I am going to get in close and slingshot around…we will go from too close to too far to hit in a fraction of a second.” “Do it!” Plato ordered as he braced himself. The ship moved close to the small artificial moon, tucking in too close for the guns to target effectively. The ship gained speed, only Jet’s considerable skill keeping them from crashing into obstacles. As he pulled away, considerable gravitational forces tugged at the ship, almost too much for the dampeners to reconcile. Soon however the moon was far behind them and they were out of range of the guns or immediate pursuers. “Whatever you found down there must have been quite vualable.” Seeker commented, seemingly relieved. “It was.” Plato agreed. “Sometimes the most valuable thing in the universe…is information.” Seeker nodded as the ship made its course…deeper into the Dark Side and the comet beyond.