The first thing I knew as I looked at Atlantis Station, was that something was wrong. The running lights were almost all out. There were no craft outside of the Station. Even when all was well, they would have drones doing continual scans. The safety procedures here was rigid and inflexible. I remember when I would send drones out, one had to be careful about hitting other craft. Learning to pilot also had its safety exercises. Then there were the bubbles. Lots of bubbles, rising toward the surface. I looked at Lucas, and both of us had the same thought – something happened. Something bad. I tried to raise them on the comm, but there was nothing. Given the lack of running lights, there was a large chance that primary power was gone.
“We have to get inside,” Lucas said, finally.
I gave him a quizzical look. “How? I mean, if the place is flooded, where would we enter at?”
He thought for a moment. “I highly doubt the entire facility is flooded. They had extensive countermeasures in place for when something happened. Whole sections could be sealed off, down to the smallest access point. How could something have happened?”
“We won’t learn floating out here. You’re right. We have to get onboard. But the big question is – how? We can’t dock in an underwater bay. But if you’re right, one of the bays must be open.”
“How do we figure out which?”
The ball was in my court. “By going outside. We got any diving gear?”
He nodded, motioning for me to follow him back to the lab. We got there and he opened a large storage compartment. Inside, I saw two suits. They were gorgeous. Black, with a shimmery effect on the surface armor.
“Survival suits, Mark V. These things can survive in deep space or at the bottom of the sea. Nanotech at its finest!”
A frown came on my face. “They look pretty big.”
Lucas chuckled. “Don’t sweat it. The suits adjust to the size of the wearer. It truly is one size fits all. These things could have a person who stands at 7′ in them and be just fine. The gear can grow or shrink, based on the nanotech armor. Top of the line stuff. Not even the regular military has it.”
Color me impressed. “Cool. Alright, so, how do I get it on?”
He got a little awkward. “Well, you’re gonna have to strip down to get in the suit. Not just to your skivvies. This thing seals directly to you. It helps monitor your vitals, along with control for other…purposes. Once you get ready to get in, your visual sync should guide you the rest of the way. I’ll…wait in the cockpit, until you’re in.”
As he described it, I felt myself go beet red. I had to get totally naked and slip into what looked to be that cold suit. Oh, this was not going to be fun. And what did he mean, ‘other purposes?’ Like is it going to shove a tube up in – never mind! Didn’t even want to think about that. All I could do was nod, as he made to leave. Then he stopped.
“Oh, and your necklace. Sorry to say, it won’t fit in there. There are storage containers on the suit, so you can keep it with you.” He held out his hand. I slipped the necklace off and handed it to him. I knew that he wouldn’t do anything damaging to it. Funny as it sounds, but at that moment, I realized just how much I could trust Lucas. There was a bond that had formed between us on this mission. Something deep and real. We had slept in the lab on the first night. Told each other stories for hours on end. You never truly know how amazing your friends are until you see them at their core. I had seen his, and he had seen mine. He left the lab and shut the door behind him.
I took a deep breath, stripping down. Once I was naked, I was freezing. I typically wore a hoodie that was given to me at the start of the project. It was warm and fuzzy. Guess I never thought about how cold it was in this place until now. I shivered, activating the neural interface. Instantly, it ID’d the suit and saw that I was trying to do. Right as the interface started guiding me, the suit opened! Man, I keep forgetting how cool these neural links are. I could interface with stuff without having to touch a thing. The body opened up, allowing me to slip in. I put in my legs first. Dear god was it cold!
“Oh, fuck me!”
“Everything alright in there?!” Lucas called.
“Yeah. Just…little cold.”
I could hear laughing. Asshole. Though part of me couldn’t help but laugh too. As soon as my legs were in, my body went in. I cannot begin to describe how freezing it was on certain places. Then my arms slid inside. It was done. Right as I got my whole body inside, the suit began to change! The size constricted. It was so cool! Like watching a snake’s scales moving. Oh yeah, forgot to mention that – the exterior of this thing resembled snake scales, in places. The suit tightened around me. All around me. Everywhere. Never have I felt more constricted and more feminine than I did with this suit. Reminding me of my female-ness, one frozen part at a time. Just then, it all changed. The cold was instantly replaced, with warmth. It was heaven! Like I had slipped into a warm blanket. The mechanisms of the suit were coming online. As soon as everything was locked in place, I was ready.
“Lucas, come see this!”
Like he needed bidding. In a flash, he was in the lab.
“How do I look?”
His smile got so big. “Amazing! You’re like one of those super-soldiers, in a holo-vid!” He held up his Band, snapping a picture. “So people believe me when I tell them!”
I smiled too. “Wait, the head part isn’t on. It’s apparently collapse-able. Let’s get this in all its glory!” The interface told the suit to initialize the head segment. I saw the pieces come up around me. It was so cool. Given what Lucas had said, I felt like a badass soldier. When the segments finished, the visor came online. My interface acted as a HUD, and I could see the world in a way I never had before. This was so cool!
“Alright, take a picture! I want to see!”
He held up his Band again, and it was done. He sent it to me. Man, I felt like such a boss! The head segment was sleek. Much like the sub, it had no exterior. A glowing red camera was all there was, right in the center. That way, there was no structural weakness. Still, this thing looked awesome. Black, sleek, with that red eye in the center. I couldn’t have looked more like a super-soldier if I tried. I squeed a bit. He laughed, then we both did. Then, the seriousness of the situation came back.
I looked through the various systems on the suit. Indeed, this thing was rated for all kinds of survival conditions. Apparently, it was tested on the surface of Venus! Now that’s nuts! I was made to work in deep space, but was fitted for underwater work. There were several jet boosters that would propel me through the water. That was how I would get inside.
“So, how do I get outside?”
He pointed to another door, at the back of the lab. “Go through there. You’ll see an access port. It’s made for emergencies, so it should work to get you outside. I’ll activate the decompression sequence from in here.”
“You’re not coming with me?!” There was a little fear in that thought.
“No. One of us should stay with the sub, in case something happens. Not to mention, we might need it. You know your way around the access points. I don’t. But I’ll be with you every step of the way.” He put his hand on mine. I gripped his as tight as I dared, for fear of injuring him.
“Oh, your necklace!” He reached into his pocket and took it out.
I opened a port on the side of the suit, slipping it inside. Now I had Angie with me as well.
“So, once I get the dock open for the sub, how will you get it in? You don’t know how to pilot.”
“If the dock isn’t damaged or flooded, shouldn’t auto-pilot be able to get me in?”
I thought for a moment, nodding. “Yeah. That should work.” I took a deep breath. “Okay. Wish me luck!”
Putting a hand on my face, he stroked the chin of my helmet. “Be careful out there. Whatever happened, I would hate to lose you too.”
Once-again, I put my hand over his. “Don’t worry. We’ll get this all sorted out in no time.”
We didn’t break apart for some time, but we inevitably had to. I started the walk toward the back. Part of me expected moving in this thing to be cumbersome. But like a suit for a super-soldier, it was like a second skin to me. I moved like normal. This was so awesome.
I got to the back and saw the access port he was telling me about. Slipping inside, I saw the door shut and seal.
The comm unit on the suit came online. “Alright, I’m your host, L. Night, here to play you the smooth sounds of the 20th century!”
“Fuck you!” I couldn’t help but giggle, hearing him doing so on the other end.
“Anyway, beginning decompression.”
There was a loud hiss, then quiet.
“Get ready, I’m flooding the entry. Then we’ll open it and you’re on your way! Ready?”
“Let’s do it!”
Very quickly, I noticed the water coming in. The suit reacted instantly, adjusting to the new environment. Various readings came online. I saw that I had several days worth of oxygen, thanks to the recycling system. Very cool. Though, if this took several days, then something went wrong. Once the chamber was full of water, the exterior hatch opened. I activated the boosters, and began my exit.
“Alright, I’m out of the sub.”
“Closing exterior hatch. Draining and repressurizing exit. And…done. How’s it feel?”
I chuckled a little. “Like being weightless.”
“Say, what’s the water temperature like? Just out of curiosity.”
“Still the scientist, eh?” I rolled my eyes a bit.
“No reason to abandon it, even if we are in a survival situation.”
Again, I chuckled. The suit did a quick scan.
“I got 16 degrees Celsius.”
“Interesting. The water is getting warmer.”
“What does that mean?”
“Unsure. Anyway, back to the mission. Get used to the jets before trying anything serious.”
Good advice. I boosted around. It was cumbersome at first, but once I learned to use the jets on my arms and lets to steer, it got easier. There was so much light outside. Suddenly, a memory came back into my head. The dream!
“Hey Lucas, kill the lights on the sub.”
“Just trust me!”
“Okay. Killing exterior lights…” It went dark. I cut off the lights on the suit as well. That was when I saw them! There were lights coming up, from the depths. They were rising toward Atlantis! It was beautiful. The buoyancy system held me in place, letting me observe the lights rise. So amazing. Why were they all headed toward Atlantis? There was a mystery here, that I didn’t know how to solve. I used the suit’s camera to capture as much of it as I could.
“Ellie! Ellie, are you okay?! You went dark.”
That brought me back to reality. “Yeah. I’m sending you some stuff. Something I recorded.”
There was a pause. “Beautiful! These lights, they are some kind of bio-luminescence.”
“No other explanation. They seem to be coming from below. Deep below.”
A light in my head went off. “Like where the coral is?!”
“That’s my thought. I don’t know enough, but the outline of a picture is forming in my head. All those lights are heading toward Atlantis. Something is drawing them there. Oh well, that’ll have to wait. We got a job to do, and the more I learn about the situation, the less I want to be sitting out here.”
“With you there. Alright, heading toward Atlantis.”
I hit the jets, drifting steadily over. Through the lights I went, though they seemed to disappear as the running lights of the Station got closer. Strange. Now, how to get in? The answer came pretty fast – one of the flooded docks. It seemed fitting. Turns out, I didn’t have to look far. I jetted along the hull of the Station. You really never appreciate how big it is until you see it from the outside.
“I’ve made my way to a flooded dock. Entering Atlantis Station.”
“Copy that! Be careful in there. Who knows what’s happened.”
“Copy that too.”
I drifted inside, looking around. Subs that were still in place. Whatever happened in here, it happened fast. I looked and saw that the door had been ripped open from the other side! What happened in here?! Where were all the people? The last question didn’t take long. I moved toward the wall, moving a piece of wreckage out of my way. It was then that I came upon some young woman who was floating. A look of terror was on her face. I screamed, loudly.
“Ellie?! What’s wrong?! Are you okay?!”
After a few seconds, I was able to speak again. Tears were running down my face.
“There’s a person in here. A dead person. Some girl from Mechanical. Jesus…fuck. Luc, what if Mars is like this?! What if she’s floating dead somewhere?!”
“Don’t go assuming the worst yet, Elle. This place’s security measures were top-notch. Even if there was flooding, they would have had ways to seal access points. This person might just be one of the ones who didn’t get lucky. Let’s not break down before we know for sure, alright?”
I wished I could have wiped my eyes, but I nodded.
“Right. Okay, heading in. I’ll have to reach one of the main access terminals. Everything in here is waterlogged. It looks like water came in fast. Lots of busted shit all over the place.”
“Okay. I’ve loaded the schematics and am tracking your location. The nearest access terminal just down the hall from your location. Updating your navigation system.”
Right as he said it, a waypoint came on. The cool factor was back. The HUD also displayed an interactive map, displaying my location, in relation to the waypoint. Yeah, this stuff was awesome.
“Making my way to the terminal.” The jets took me into a hallway. The jets wouldn’t be much use in the halls. I activated the magnetic system in the boots, feeling the solid floor beneath me. Slowly but surely, I walked to where Lucas had marked. The terminal was still online. How it worked with all the water in here was beyond me, but no point questioning providence.
I used my interface to get in, bringing up the systems.
“Do a check of the station. Where-all is flooded?”
I hit some sensors, bringing up schematics. Hope suddenly leapt back into me. Lucas was right! The safety measures in this place were impressive. Over 1/2 the station was either severely damaged or flooded, but not all of it.
“We’re in luck! Not all the station is flooded. I’ve got a dock that you can get into.”
“Excellent! Send me the data and we’ll get the auto-pilot to get us in there.”
I queued it up, but then was hit with a problem.
“I can’t open it! There’s an Executive Lockdown on all systems!”
“Executive Lockdown? Like from the Commander?”
“Looks that way. The Lockdown was issued right as everything went to shit, along with an emergency evacuation order. Whatever happened here, it didn’t last long. Everything went to shit in a big way and they had minutes to spare. Whole sections were cornered off, but other sections were damaged beyond repair.”
A pause. “What damaged them?”
“Unknown. There wasn’t a full diagnostic done. They didn’t have time. The evacuation was ordered and everyone jumped ship.”
“So, how are we going to get the sub in. I know you’ve been hacking their stuff. Got anything that can help?”
I thought for a moment. “I might be able to open up one of the docks, but I’m going to have go in and do it there.”
“Sounds good. We can meet up. You make your way to the dock, while I get my own suit. If the placed is locked down, then we’ll need to end the Lockdown. Only way we can do that is from the Command Center.”
“Yeah. That makes sense. Alright, see you soon!”
“You know it!”
I knew that if the shutters were sealed, than I wasn’t getting out of these flooded compartments. I had to go in directly. Once outside, I used the jets to move along the hull again. There was something so freeing about this. Now that I was used to them, I felt like a seal in the water, gliding effortlessly through it. Lucas had to yell at me when I got off-task. Whatever. I knew that he wishes he could seal too.
There was an external access port, like the one on the sub. It was also for emergencies. I had to hack in to the controls, but it got the job done. Once the cabin pressurized, I was back in the dry. The suit did a scan. The air was breathable. I disengaged the helmet and ran over to where the controls were. My interface loaded one of my hacking programs from my Band. The firewalls weren’t especially active right now. A lot of the ship’s systems were down. Primary power had been lost not too long ago. It was kind of creepy in the place. I ended the lockdown on the room, and Lucas brought in the sub.
When it was docked, he came out. Like me, he looked pretty damn cool in the suit. I snapped a picture of him too.
“Hey, now we can both be badass soldiers!”
He smiled at me, collapsing the helmet. “You know it! Now, let’s get to the Command Center and end the lockdown. Then we gotta get to the surface.”
“Think there’ll be a shuttle there?”
He nodded. “Most definitely. They made sure to plan for all contingencies. They have several more shuttles than fully required, in case of an orbital emergency, where something gets damaged.” Then a dark look came on his face.
“It’s just odd. With all the safety measures, what happened to the Station?”
That got to me too, but what could we do?
“Let’s get to the Command Center. Maybe we can get some answers there.”
“Lay on, McDuff!”
We made our way through the halls. Our interfaces guided us. So cool, how these things worked even without the helmet. I didn’t plan on getting rid of this tech, once I got out of here. I knew it was the same for Lucas. We were making good time. The lifts were dead, so we had to go through the emergency tubes. Each time we opened one, we checked to see that it wasn’t flooded. The last thing we wanted was to get caught with our pants down. That already happened to Atlantis.
As I opened one of the tubes, the two of us stopped dead. The lights! They were all along the walls! Indeed, I wouldn’t have believed it if I wasn’t seeing it. The coral, it was growing inside the Station!
I looked to Lucas. “What does this mean?!”
He stared at it, thinking. “I wish I knew, Elle. I really wish I knew…”
Something inside of me knew that we had just come on to a major clue. If only I knew how to process it. What happened here?!
Until next time, a quote,
“Why are people so afraid of the dark?” -Shinji Ikari, Neon Genesis Evangelion