Chapter 16. Starchaser (2718) Secure Galcop Storage Facility: Location Classified.
Mirias stood in a cavernous hanger. He didn't know exactly where it was located. He assumed that this was one of the many places where Galcop put things they didn't want the general population to see. The trip had been long but not unpleasant, involving just under a weeks travel. Not that much had changed, The General Garrett, Shulth's "cell" had travelled with him. This was the military frigate that he was now, rather reluctantly starting to call home.
The routine was the same, The escorts formed up ready to perform the far away jump procedure, "Where are we going?" "That information is classified Doctor." They were still stinging from the execution, his clearances had been rescinded and all his requests went through Turner now. This didn't really annoy Shulth that much. The man couldn't stand the sight of him, his equipment requests could be conducted over narrow band and lab was populated by mechanical droid assistants. Anything to keep him away from the raw humans, the smell was unbearable.
They stank. His olfactory system had been crafted into an efficient biological DNA annualiser. He was used to the subtle aromas, caused by minor defects that occasionally appeared in a clone brooding vat. Not the raw clinging stench of wild genetics. So much imperfection, so much disease. Rancid natural genes barely and inefficiently doing their jobs, each copy less functional than the last. Slowly, inevitably, degrading back into the slurry that had formed them. It made him want to gag. He had been glad to get out of the cramped shuttle and the hanger he was standing alone in now, was a delight by comparison.
The guards they had passed to get here, looked like they hadn't slept properly in weeks. They flatly refused to unseal the hanger and had to be threatened with a court martial. They had an air of desperate panic about them. It was intriguing and very difficult to fake. The automatic doors had to be hand cranked and complained violently, opening in fits and starts. Shulth walked in but no one followed. He turned round quizzically and a small data-pad was thrust into his hands.
So there he stood, breathing in the stale but genetically clean air as a collection of eyes, some nervous some uncaring stared back at him from the far side of the partially open door. Mirias properly surveyed his surroundings; the hanger was indeed mostly empty, resting awkwardly towards the back of it was a pre-modular star-ship. An end of the period design, Mirias noticed several parts that Whatt and Pritney would adapt and evolve into their ground breaking modular python. This was a hand built obsolescence, a historical foot note by comparison.
So an old ship, 150 maybe 200 years at most? It didn't look it, it looked like it had been around for thousands. Even at this distance he could see there were no clean edges left, they were lost to the slow ablative effects of microscopic impacts. It took time to do this kind of damage to a ship. It looked oddly distressed or antiqued. A relatively new design that had been made to look aeons old.
Why would anyone want to make a hundred and fifty year old space craft look millennia old? It didn't make sense. Mirias turned to the pad for answers. As his hand moved over it; the Galcop logo spun gently on the now illuminated data pad then faded to reveal the face of General Turner.
"Good afternoon Dr Shulth, it has been brought to my attention that you may not be seeing your part in the big picture. That the tasks we're setting you have little use. I hope that you will not take offence if we are a little secretive regarding the grand plan to save Galcop. I hope this little demonstration will prove to you that your skills are to be married to others in order to accomplish a greater and long lasting good." His face faded and a historical listing appeared on the screen.
G.T.S. Star Chaser. Lankton Spaceways MC-18a Commissioned 2538. lost in witchspace 2541. Salvaged 2542. Crew compliment 8. Tomas Bevin (Captain), Jill Blake (Second Officer), Brendan Thall (Chief Engineer), Ellenar Bell (Navigator), lucinda Vey (Quartermaster), Jethro Secour (Electrical Engineer 1st Class), Millie Clay (Security/Gunnery), Dexter Swiss (Trade Cadet 2nd class). Faces and service careers flashed in front of him. The ship was part of a convoy group heading out from Lave to Diso. Unfortunately one of the StarChasers engines had flared out, just as they had synced for the far away jump. All the ships in the trade group were lost as a result. But the StarChaser, was eventually recovered. It was found, floating in the outer systems of Diso 20 months later. The crew (that could be found) were long dead. Carbon dating, dated the hulk at just over 134,000 years old. The ships data recorders had recorded detailed information regarding the spacial anomaly and the desperate attempts by the crew to work out where they were, how they could first get back, then just find anywhere with a longer survival time than the flying coffin they were currently occupying.
It had not ended well, the ship had a good oxygen and water recycle system, but food soon became an issue. The logs charted the slow degeneration of the crew from well ordered team, through petty squabbles into factions, power plays, fights, murder and eventually cannibalism. In the end the remaining 3 crew members seeing no way out of their current situation and none of them wanting to be the last one left, chewing hopelessly on the bones of the other two; turned off the oxy-cyc and just went to sleep. It was a tragic tale. But then space didn't care for 8 people slowly dying in a metal box. Lost in space and time. The next part interested Mirias more.
The anomalies had started soon after the ship had been recovered and the data it contained was being assessed. Technicians began falling ill due to stress, it appeared to be a strange variation of post trauma. Inducing hallucinations, panic attacks, depression the list went on. All the tox screens came back negative but the casualties kept on coming. Then things got really weird. Eye witness statements had consistency, the ship apparently, was haunted by the people who had died there. Everyone who went to debunk the mass hysteria surrounding the Star Chaser came out a fanatical convert instead. Rumours began circulating about a cult that wanted to take the ship and use it as a tool for communicating with the dead. Panicked by the growing controversy, Galcop buried it in an old research facility and merrily sectioned the more rowdy detractors. It was like the ship was a nasty little knot in space-time, driving anyone mad who looked at it too closely......
Mirias felt a sudden sharp pain in his forehead. He had been strolling absent mindedly whist reading and he hadn't realized where he was, bumping straight into the side of the ship. It loomed over him now like a dark malevolence. At a distance it was a forlorn sight, up close however it was terrifying. It arched and curved unnaturally like a sinister work of art. Every millimetre of hull plate was pitted or scarred in some way, like a strange almost painfully detailed miniature moonscape. The viewing panels were sandblasted opaque and any equipment vaguely delicate on the exterior of the craft was either smash sculpted by time or missing entirely. Power and data cables spilled from one of its buckled and torn open airlocks. Intestine like, they snaking around the prone ship, tethering it to numerous flashing ports on the hangar walls and floor. Looking for all the world like a temple to a lesser god of madness.
Mirias stared at it rubbing his forehead. The hull was twisting razor sharp mass, that would have easily cut lesser men. Despite his physical superiority, for the first time in one hundred years he felt a shudder of dread run down his spine.