Styx Class Orbital Scow
LDS-OS Bob Dylan
15,944 Kilometers from Earth
Angela Eastlake awoke with a groan. Her entire body ached, her skin throbbing as if it were a muscle. Every nerve in her body was firing off at full tilt, and she saw stars dancing behind her eyelids. She tried to roll over and rub her face, but found she was restrained. As wakefulness continued returning to her and she realized she was being held down, her eyes darted open and came face to face with the third most wanted man in the Solar system.
“Admiral! You’re awake,” Anton Hellas smiled down at Angela, “Our last conversation was interrupted before it could reach its culmination, I’d ever so like to continue it.”
Her mind skipped as her memories caught up with her. She remembered the young captain entering her office with some ridiculous story of how the system had become corrupted, then pulling a gun on her when the conversation started to go sour. Angela had tried to call security on her implants, then there was a blinding brilliance and her mind had gone dark.
Anton grinned peevishly at her, “So as I was saying before we were interrupted, the Great Powers may have kept the peace for the last century, but they did so by ruthlessly exploiting their workers and creating a dispossessed underclass on every major planet and colony.”
There were radicals whose actions were paid for by the opposing governments, there were radicals motivated by religious extremism, and then there was the group that truly believed they were acting in humanity’s best interests. That last group was the one that Anton fell into, he legitimately believed he was doing the right thing, and that made him incredibly dangerous.
“Aren’t you going to say anything?” he demanded, “You’ve been defending their interests with bullets for over a century, you forget how to do it with words?”
“I have nothing to say to the likes of you,” she declared, “You’re a murderer and criminal.”
“I could say the same about you,” he snorted, “I could, but then, our conversation would go nowhere, would it?” he pat her on the cheek condescendingly and then started pacing. He started to speak, but the Admiral cut him off.
“I’m nothing like you,” she insisted.
He laughed, “You say that, but I think we’re not so different you and I.”
“I worked to bring peace, and order, and justice to the system, all you’ve done is sow chaos and destruction,” she spoke with a conviction borne of years of service.
“You defend and uphold a system where air and water are tradable commodities, where children are left to suffocate because they can’t afford to breathe. Where’s the justice in that?” His tone was earnest, almost melancholic, “Where’s the justice, when corporations strip asteroids barren of resources and then leave the people in them to die when they stop being useful? Where’s the justice, when the companies that mine the iron in your space stations hire death squads to torture and kill union leaders who are trying to organize for better conditions?”
He shook his head and answered his own question, “There is no justice in it at all.”
“So you’d make things worse?” She argued, “Create violence and instability?”
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable,” he insisted, “A great man once said that. And, thanks to the actions of people like you, the plutocrats who rule over the system have successfully managed to suppress peaceful revolution for over a century. But the people cry out to be heard, and I hear their pleas.”
“You’re a power hungry maniac,” she snarled.
“Is that what you really believe about me? You know in the Tribe, there are many who think you’re a lizard person. They think your blood runs green if you’re cut, but I know you still bleed red,” he smiled ominously at that. “You believe in what you’re doing, that’s admirable, Admiral. But you’ve been doing it a long time, and the power has corrupted you. You’re blind to the suffering you inflict upon others.”
“And you’re not?” she snorted derisively.
“On the contrary, my eyes are wide open,” he replied, “I am keenly aware of the scales weighed against each action I perform, the hurt I cause and the suffering I inflict, weighed against the lives saved with those harms, no I must act.”
He turned away from her again, pacing the room, “So see, It’s happened time and again, first on the nations of Earth, then Mars, then in the Tartarus Accords. I was born on Mars you know? And not on some prissy orbital, I grew up on the frontier. And you know, there was so much hope on Mars, so much idealism, and compassion, and yet they still managed to fall prey to their greed, small mindedness, and baser urges. They called themselves socialists, but they paid no heed to the universal plight of workers everywhere. They justify their brutality in space by saying it is for the good of Mars, while their corporations just take, and take, and take,” he spat, “Mars is also guilty, and will also face justice in due time.”
“If this is your idea of justice: kidnapping, and torture? It’s sick.” The admiral sneered.
“Oh, no, I’m still establishing my case, as it were, you see?” He said. “The UN Is no different, it was originally created as a peacekeeping organization, and it has managed to do that on Earth for over two centuries, albeit at nuclear gunpoint, but still an impressive accomplishment. It’s too bad you sold out your ideals in favor of realpolitik, maybe the corporations wouldn’t have walked all over you so much.”
“We still have ideals,” Angela said defensively, “But in the real world, sometimes you have to do unpleasant things in order to uphold those ideals and the systems that allow them.”
“I believe that was true once, but no longer. Another great man anticipated it when he said, the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. Nations start out with their ideals intact, created in the fires of revolution, and then over time, corruption seeps in, power accumulates at the top, in people like you, and the oppressed become the oppressors.”
“So now that you have the power, you’re going to oppress those who you feel wronged you, is that how this works?” Andrea growled.
Anton chuckled, “Yeah, thanks to you, I’m about to oppress the shit out of your friends.”
“I won’t help you,” she said forcefully, gritting her teeth. “I won’t let you torture information out of me.”
“You’re already helping me,” Anton said nonchalantly, turning back towards her with a scalpel in hand, “I just need to borrow your face.”
Malacca Elevator Station, Main Ring
United Nations Executive Security Operations Building
22,236 Kilometers from Earth
Admiral Marion Blake absentmindedly fiddled with the medals pinned to her dress uniform. The attack that had killed the senior defense secretary left all of them reeling and on edge. The Free Sky Tribe weren’t even considered the most dangerous terrorist group in the system, the idea that they had managed to infiltrate one of the most secure military installations in the UN and kill their most senior military officer didn’t sit well with any of them.
The fleet around Earth had been put on high alert and dozens of ships swarmed the local space around the station. They were visible as moving white blurs as they passed cameras which fed imagery into the faux windows lining the perimeter of the operations room. Despite all the effort being thrown at the problem, the UN Special Investigators assigned to the incident were unable to pick up the trail of the terrorists responsible. They had vanished into the buzz of traffic around Earth without a trace. She dragged her eyes away from the wallscreens and focused back on the matter she had at hand.
Images paraded across the holographic screens at the center of the room, videos given to the Martians by the aliens they were calling the Kiwawentoa depicted planetary-scale destruction and even stars being dismantled for resources. It showed massive alien war fleets casually swatted aside, entire solar systems reduced to rubble and then vacuumed up afterward.
“We should consider the possibility that we will not be able to defend Sol against the Reshapers,” General Arthur Alexander, Secretary of the Marines said sullenly as the images scrolled past.
“The Security Council will never agree to abandoning the defense of the Earth,” Kai Ming Song, Senior Administrative Representative to the UN security council declared.
“You’ve seen the video Song,” Gideon Churchill, Senior Undersecretary to the executive administration said calmly to the korean woman, “Tell me how to defend Earth against that.”
“You have nuclear warheads, relativistic kinetic kill weapons, a fleet of over a thousand ships, it’s your job to figure out how to defend Earth from this sort of threat,” she insisted, “Figure out how to kill them, and kill them until they decide to leave our system alone.”
“It looks like a lot of species tried that and the Reshapers wiped the floor with them,” Marion spoke up, meeting the representative’s gaze.
“What’s our alternative,” Sven Goddardson Junior Undersecretary to the Executive Administration said, steepling his fingers, “Evacuate the planet?”
“You can’t be serious,” Gideon said turning towards Sven, “There are twenty billion people on the Earth, the logistics of evacuating even a tenth of that population is…” he trailed off as he imagined the costs and the logistical complexities involved. It was the sort of thing that could kill tens of thousands just as a side effect of the mass migrations.
“There’s no realistic way we could evacuate everyone,” Marion agreed with the senior undersecretary, She swiped her hands through the videos of the Reshapers and shifted the image at the center of the table back to its default setting.
The real-time holographic map of the Sol system rotated lazily around the round table that dominated the room, highlighting the locations of planets, asteroids, and rotating habitats. Color coded trajectories representing the courses of various military vessels crisscrossed the chart in what should have been a confusing tangle, but to Marion, made perfect sense.
“However,” she continued, “We could at least get started on the process. We have two hundred and nineteen rotating habitats currently housing fifty-eight million people in the Earth-Luna sphere of influence, if we retrofit those colonies with warp drives and start filling them up to capacity, we could fit upwards of a hundred and fifty million people just with the infrastructure we have in orbit right now.”
“One hundred and fifty million out of twenty billion,” the senior undersecretary reiterated, “That’s zero point seven percent of the Earth’s population, it’s a drop in the bucket.”
“People are going to die in the course of these events regardless of how they play out,” Arthur said, “If these aliens come for the Earth, and we can’t protect her, then she’s like the Titanic, and we don’t have enough lifeboats.”
“Thus bringing us back to my point,” Song argued, “Which is that we need to figure out how to kill these Reshapers and keep them away from our planet.”
“We should still have contingency plans,” Arthur insisted, “Start evacuating our most important scholars and artists now, so if the worst happens, our civilisation can continue in some fo-” Arthur’s words were suddenly ripped from his mouth, along with all the rest of the air in his lungs as the room unexpectedly turned into shrapnel.
Anton Hellas’s hijacked kinetic kill vehicle had slammed into the structure at several hundred kilometers per second relative to the station. The hundred ton automated military vehicle was instantly reduced into a slug of hot metal as it tore through layers of armor plating and bulkheads. The room around Marion disintegrated in a roar of light and noise as the shockwave dopplered through the hull, and then suddenly she was tumbling through space, the now ruined ring station receding in the distance as her last breath of air escaped her lungs.
The armored skyscraper and a large chunk of the nearby ring were shredded apart in milliseconds by the shear forces, its wreckage torn from the station and sent tumbling along in the wake of the interplanetary bullet. Thousands perished instantly as their bodies were crushed and torn apart by the exploding structure. Thousands more were cast into the abyss as the rooms and compartments they had inhabited cracked open to the void and dumped their still living occupants into space.
Marion saw the Earth, breathtakingly beautiful as it hung shining in the vast darkness. Her eyes burned, her skin burned, and her head swam, but she held her gaze on that image of the blue world for the few seconds it took for the dark bliss of unconsciousness and death swim up through her body and claim her.
Newton Class Starship
0.9 AUs from Ross 154
Ross 154 was a quiet, foreboding place. The variable dwarf cast a dim and baleful crimson glare over a singular barren worldlet, a tumbling Mercury-sized rock orbiting within a larger rubble belt that never accumulated into a true planet.
It was on this forlorn rock in space that the Martian Survey Corps had built Magellan, their largest interstellar exploration complex. Vast warrens supporting a population of thousands were burrowed into the darkened rock, sprouting transparent domes across the surface like mushroom caps. An orbital elevator descended from a waystation with a rotating habitat ring down to the planetoid’s surface, and the dark side of the tidally locked world bore growing clusters of radio telescopes, peering into the darkness of space.
Despite the activity she knew was there, the system felt lonely and desolate to Ivy Czininski as she brought the Empiricist in to dock with the station. The maneuvering thrusters cut out, and the clamps on the rotating habitat grabbed hold of the Empiricist, bringing an abrupt return from weightlessness and shoving Ivy into her seat.
There was only one other vessel docked to the station when they arrived, the MNCV Dawnchaser, which was preparing to depart coreward into Scorpius in the hunt for the Reshapers.
Airlocks clanked into place and electrical and fuel lines from the station hooked up as status lights went green across the board. Ivy sighed and let her head fall back in her chair, then unstrapped and climbed down the axial ladder to the airlock chamber. Vedika followed her silently from the bridge, and together they passed through the airlocks and entered the station.
Station Commander Neal Tekla greeted the pair of them outside the airlock, and they all saluted each other smartly in what was strictly speaking far more military a manner than Survey required.
“Welcome back to Magellan, Commander Czininski,” he said enthusiastically shaking her hand, “how’s it feel to be the first captain to find intelligent life in space?”
“Rather terrifying to be completely honest with you,” Ivy smiled and broke the contact, “But then it is the sort of thing we all signed up to do.”
“Don’t remind me,” the old man grimaced, “I’d be right out there with you if I had a ship of my own and wasn’t saddled down running this colony. Did you think you’d ever actually see the day we met aliens?”
“I mean, I’m not planning on dying anytime soon, so eventually I figured we’d run into someone,” Ivy explained, “What about you Neal, were you planning on forgoing the anti-senesics this time around?”
“I’m considering it,” he admitted, “I’ve had a long life, I’ve been rejuvenated twice already, and I don’t want to just keep ticking along forever. In my experience, everyone has a limit.”
“Well, I hope yours is still a few hundred years out Old Man,” she smiled sadly at him, “I’ve gotten rather used to you being around here.”
“Everything passes with time Ivy, even supposed Immortals,” he said sagely as they strolled the wide hallway the airlocks were mounted along, “Though, maybe I’d feel different after the physical therapy. It’s been a few decades since these old joints were comfortable in a gravity well.”
“I’d consider it,” Vedika spoke up for the first time, “See if the anti-senesic therapy improves your emotional state.”
He grunted in response, and they walked in silence to the elevator.
“So you have an officer for me?” She asked him as they entered the elevator, “I lost one of mine.”
“I heard about that,” he confirmed, “Nasty situation, I hope she pulls through, she was a good kid from what I hear.”
“She is,” Ivy insisted, correcting him on the tense, “But I need an XO until we can get her back.”
“And I do have one for you,” he sent a personnel file from his implants to her own and she opened it, reading the contents.
“Lieutenant Commander Joy Icaria, forty-three, served two tours of duty aboard the Oppenheimer’s Lament,” Ivy read off the sheet as the lift carried them upwards, deeper into the ring, slight coriolis forces tugging them to the side as they rose through the decks.
“I’ve met her, she’s a good kid,” the station commander said.
“She’s a bit young for Executive Officer, is she competent?” Ivy asked as they stepped off the lift into the station command layer at the inner surface of the ring.
“She sure seemed it to me,” Neal said gruffly, “Tough as nails that one, though, she could do to get the pole out of her ass.”
“That’s high praise coming from you,” she said.
“It is,” he admitted, “most of these kids are softer than fresh pastry, a real conflict would chew them up and spit them out faster than you can bat an eye.”
“I would have said something about how we were leaving the era where we’d have to fight those sorts of conflicts,” Ivy admitted, “but the Reshapers change that equation quite a bit.”
“The universe is full of conflict, there’s no escaping it,” he said.
“I hope you’re mistaken about that Old Man,” Ivy said seriously.
“So do I Commander, so do I,” he replied.
Dirge Singer class Heavenly Container of Life
i34_2015 Lament for Lost Worlds
Hyperspatial Transit Trajectory
The outline of the archway was created by a deep seam in the rock face. The door itself seemed to be composed of the same material as the rest of the cliff, and aside from the seam itself, was particularly unremarkable as a patch of the cliff face.
Jean had erected a campsite beside the door at the edge of the pond. She started a fire as the sun began dimming and falling behind the mountains, letting in the night. At the altitude she was at, it didn’t take long for the air to acquire a painfully bitter bite that left her huddling up in her clothing and animal skins as close to the fire as she could manage. The chill of night pressed down on her, leaving her questioning the wisdom of making camp right up at the door. However, she knew she had made the right choice as the fake sun fully sank behind the fake mountains and the fake stars started to come out. In the gathering fake twilight, a faint glow emanating from the seam in the cliff face became readily apparent.
It was a soft white light, impossible to see during the day, but becoming visible in the growing dusk. Jean stood up and ran in place for a moment to get her blood flowing again, and made her way up to the cliff face.
She tried to peer into the seam in the rock, but aside from the soft glow, nothing was visible. She felt the rock with her palm and thought she felt a slight rumble pass through the stone, but it faded away as quickly as it came. She rapped her knuckles on the stone face of the door, and pressed against it with all of her body weight, but just like her attempts during the day, these attempts also produced no effect and the door remained stubbornly in place. She growled in frustration at the stone and kicked it, but this also produced no effect other than to make her toe hurt. Jean sighed and leaned against the door, slumping slowly down the face of it, until she was in a sitting position. She lightly banged her head on the hard stone surface in frustration.
Studying-Hoping-Envisioning had told her to find the hidden doorways, and this seemed like the sort of thing she had been describing. It wasn’t that hidden, but from any distance away it was all but invisible against the cliff face. Jean’s tiny campfire produced more light than was managing to seep around the cracks in the door, so even at night, it wasn’t as if it’d be particularly noticeable without coming right up onto it.
She rested her head against the cool stone and closed her eyes. That was when she heard the faint chirping and trilling sounds emanating from the stone. Her eyes darted open and she leapt back from the rock like it’d bit her. The doorway had fallen silent once more.
She stomped back to her campfire and sat down next to the heat source, glaring at the glowing door. The door, if it had any regard for her actions, continued to ignore her.
Jean dug through her rucksack and found a hunk of deer jerky and sat chewing on it and poking the fire with a stick while considering the problem before her. She wasn’t sure what had triggered the sound to begin with, if it had a trigger. That if was the problem, however, as there was also the possibility that it was simply very faint and could be only be heard when Jean pressed her face to the surface.
“Well I guess I’d better test it somehow,” she said quietly, her voice dry and hoarse from disuse. She retreated into her mindscape and began listing out all the potential things to test for on a mental whiteboard. Could she hear the sound when she pressed her ear to the stone outside the doorway? What about if she had some sort of intermediary inorganic material like a cup to amplify the sound?
She shouldered her pack and wandered absentmindedly back over to the doorway, continuing to chew on her deer jerky while she examined the stone again. She pressed herself against the face of the door so her ear was up against the stone, and once more, she could hear the faint chirping sound. She slowly began to back off from the door. She started with her head while keeping her knees, arms, and chest touching the stone. She could still hear the chirping. As soon as no part of her body was in physical contact with the surface, it fell silent. She touched a finger to the door and the sound return.
“Huh,” she said aloud, letting her arm fall limp against her body.
She repeated the entire test on the blank cliff face next to the door, but she wasn’t able to hear anything. It seemed to be reacting to her contact in some way. She leaned in as close to the door as she could without touching it, then slowly extended one finger. It was quiet until her finger made contact with the stone, but as soon as that happened, she could hear the trilling and chirping again.
It was definitely kiwawentoa speech that she was hearing, probably some sort of automated message designed to react to touch. She tried touching the door through a layer of deer skin, but if failed to react to anything but her living skin, not even her hair triggered the response.
She stepped back from the door and sat down on the rocky ground before it. She removed the deerskin wrappings she had tied around her feet as an attempt at shoes and touched the sole of her foot to the door.
She then dug through her rucksack until she found the earpiece that translated the alien’s speech. Once it had sat on her ear long enough to build up the electrical charge it needed from her body, the little device immediately began speaking to her.
“…ccess. Identify. Human. Identify. Waygiver. Passage. Access. Identify. Human. Identify. Waygiver. Passage. Access. Identify. Human. Identify. Waygiver. Passage. Access. Identify. Human. Identify. Waygiver. Passage. Access. Identify. Human. Identify. Waygiver. Passage. Access Identif…” she pulled her foot away from the door before the voice gave her a headache and stared at the blank stone in bewilderment.
Newton Class Starship
Docked at Magellan Elevator Station
0.9 AUs from Ross 154
Cale and Kestral quietly slipped into the engineering bay at the bottom of the Empiricist. With the ship tethered into the station life support and half the crew aboard the station, the passageways were quiet and empty. The duo tried to look casual, but Kestral was nervous and couldn’t stop looking all over the place, as if expecting enemies to jump out at any moment.
“This is a really bad idea,” Kestral hissed to Cale as he shut the door to the engineering bay.
“We need exotic matter to test the hyperspace window generator. While we’re docked up to the station and getting all our tanks topped off is as good a time as any, the exotic matter we take will just be replenished from the big tanks on the station,” he explained to em again.
“You still don’t have permission to be doing this,” ey insisted as Cale began plugging in a portable containment unit into one of the shunt valves for the main exotic matter tank.
“I notice that you’re not stopping me or raising an alarm, but are in fact helping me do this,” Cale smiled wryly, “Let me also remind you that for the next several hours, until our next XO shows up, I’m senior pragmatist, which yes, does give me the authority to siphon fuel for science projects.”
“And yet, I notice we’re still doing this in secret while half the crew is on shore leave,” ey smirked, shoving eir hands in eir pockets.
“Yes well,” he grimaced as he yanked the plunger out of the containment unit to fill the chamber and locked it into place before beginning to unhook the unit from the valve, “Ivy won’t like it, unless she finds out about it after we get it working, in which case she’ll just be impressed and mildly annoyed.”
“Provided it doesn’t blow up in our faces,” ey appended.
“It’s not going to blow up in our faces,” Cale assured em as he unplugged the containment unit and hefted it in the crook of his arm.
“So you say,” Kestral teased as ey climbed the stairs to the main corridor and Cale hurried up the stairs after em.
Kestral opened the hatch to the corridor and was confronted by the sour looking face of Orel Shaw staring down at them from above. The tall lanky androgyne looked between the pair and crossed eir arms.
“What are you two doing here?” ey asked the increasingly guilty looking duo.
“Science, clearly,” Cale said, shouldering past em, “I have this exotic matter and the chief science officer with me, clearly I’m doing science, now excuse me.”
Cale continued onward up the corridor stairs leaving Kestral behind with Orel. Kestral looked somewhat like a kid with eir hand caught in the cookie jar. “He’s always like this,” Kestral assured the chief engineer as ey tried to squeeze past em.
Orel glared at them as they fled up the corridor staircase toward the machine shop they’d set up in. Cale set the containment unit down inside the door to the machine shop, pulled Kestral inside and pulled the door shut, engaging the locking mechanisms.
“You think ey’ll report us to Ivy?” Kestral asked.
“If ey do, we’ll still have a few hours before she can get down here to yell at us, she’s aboard the station picking up our new XO, and Vedika is with her running interference, we’ve got everything set up, let’s try and open the window,” Cale said as he hefted the containment unit once more, carrying it over the cage of equipment that he had constructed with help from Kestral and Vedika.
“You work things out with Vedika?” Kestral asked, “It seemed like there was a lot of hostility between you two when we first left Luyten’s Star. But I know she’s been helping you with this.”
“Yeah, you could say that,” Cale admitted, poorly suppressing a smirk.
“Are you two fucking?” ey interrogated.
“I mean it, we worked things out,” Cale insisted, “I was just feeling really emotional, but she’s been helping build the hyperspace window generator, I think we’ve come to an understanding of each other.”
“You’re totally fucking,” Kestral snorted with disbelief, “Pragmatists, you lot are unbelievable.”
“It’s not that big of a deal, it’s not like we’re in the military,” Cale defended himself, “this is Survey, people hook up, Ivy’s wife is a Digital Anthropologist and they met on a mission too, it’s fine.”
Kestral sighed and paced after him, rolling eir eyes as ey began gathering up power cables and connecting them to the ship’s energy grid as Cale hooked the containment unit into the larger setup.
“We should have enough exotic matter to sustain the window for about five hours if my math holds,” Cale explained to Kestral, “that should be enough time to do some good science.”
“All the monitoring equipment is set up,” Kestral confirmed, “The antennas are folded and in place, all the sensors are mounted, if it works, then we’re good to go with the science part.”
“It’ll work,” Cale assured em. He completed the connection process and started the power up sequence for the hyperspace window generator. The alien machine had to be flushed with exotic matter and fed local gravitational and magnetic field data to generate a safe window, and that process took some time before it could be activated.
“We’ll see,” Kestral replied, stepping back from the equipment and crossing eir arms as it began to quietly hum with power.
Cale studied the readouts carefully as the machine powered up, pumping exotic matter through all of its specially printed coils of electrically charged materials, “It all looks good here,” Cale said quietly, growing more serious as he prepared to activate the device.
“You’re sure this isn’t going to rip a hole in the ship?” Kestral asked ominously.
“It isn’t going to rip a hole in the ship,” he confirmed and activated the machine.
The device hummed louder and then the humming stopped as the equipment emitted a loud pop from somewhere inside the cage and all the readouts started going crazy.
“What did you do?” Kestral asked frantically as ey looked at the strange cascade of particle and electromagnetic radiation that the sensors inside the cage were picking up on.
Cale’s face was slowly splitting open into a massive grin as he looked over the rapidly scrolling information, “It’s working,” he said excitedly, “The window is stable, you’re seeing the emissions from the transitional zone, extend the antenna.”
Kestral’s eyes lit up as ey realized what the data ey were looking at meant, it meant they had done it, they had opened a portal into hyperspace. Ey quickly input the control sequence into the antenna system, and a twenty-kilometer long cable topped with a bulb of sensors, cameras, and detectors began unspooling into the hyperspace window.
“Interesting,” Kestral murmured as ey studied the screens displaying camera feeds into hyperspace. The background glowed with a dim red light, mottled by inconsistencies and turbulence. Vast clouds of dark gasses enclosed them on all sides, damping down the view to what the sensors told em was only about fifty AUs. There were no stars visible but some of the gas glowed with its own strange inner light.
Cale crowded eir as he watched the screens as well. He opened up a new screen and began flipping between the different sensors, looking at data coming in from various different wavelengths of light. He paused in the middle of the microwave spectrum, jaw dropping as he saw the flood of structured signals the microwave antennas were picking up.
He prodded Kestral away from the visible frequencies and pointed to the flood of signals rippling across his interface.
“What am I looking at?” Ey asked him.
“I think we just discovered the alien internet,” he replied.