Chapter 8: Split the party, translate the ruins, and take a nap.
It was dark. Annie couldn’t see anything. It was the kind of darkness that sent people into a panic, but not Annie. She’d spent most of her teenage years in a small ship in space or crawling through maintenance vents. She took a deep breath and reached for her flashlight. She didn’t want to reach too quickly in case there was something in there with her or the area was unstable.
Her flashlight was attached to a headband and she put it on her head and flicked the switch. She’d expected ancient ruins with pictographs on the walls. Something like an temple or pyramid. This wasn’t anything like that. She was in a small room with grey walls and a door with no handle. There was a large black rectangle next to the door that she assumed was a control panel. She moved towards it and noticed that the floors were made of metal.
“I’ve been watching too many vids and reading too many fics,” she chastised herself. Although there was an improbable amount of crumbling trapped temples in the universe, they still were the minority.
The panel next to the door didn’t activate when she touched it and the rest of the room seemed pretty barren except for the spot she appeared in. That was exactly the same as the spot where she’d disappeared. The same markings that must have been a teleportation device or really smooth trap door.
She decided the best thing to do was wait. Annie knew that Seren would rush in and join her quickly unless Jan stopped her. Jan was both cautious and reasonable. It would make exploration longer but safer and Annie was okay with that.
It was just a matter of time. The room was secure; there was nothing for her to do but pry open the door so she decided to take a nap.
The hardest part about deciphering the symbols where Annie had disappeared was how long it took. Seren wasn’t a fan of waiting around and after they’d cleared the jungle growth from the square it was all about patience and decoding. It was a puzzle that should have excited her but she was worried about her friend.
They’d tried to reach her through coms but either she couldn’t answer or something was blocking the signal.
The symbols were trinary code. Similar to computer code but with a little more nuance. The markings quickly and efficiently described that the square was a teleportation device.
“Let’s go!” she said once they had the translation.
“This thing predates our civilization. How do we know it still works? Maybe it just transported her into space or underwater or into magma?” Jan was much too reasonable.
“Do you want to stay here?” Seren asked. She knew it was a mean question. No one wanted to be left behind.
They stood in the right place and everything went black. They waited and when there was no change in temperature or pressure they turned on their head lights.
The room was non-descript and there was a body in the corner. Seren threw herself at Annie saying, “Annie. Oh Annie.”
Groggily Annie responded with, “Nice to see you too. Took you long enough.”
“You’re a real jerk, you know that?” Jan said laughing. “You know it’s a two way teleporter?”
“I guessed but didn’t want to risk it being one of those sequential things where it sends me further away.”
The three of them did a much more thorough look around and found that the place had little to offer.
“I don’t get it,” Seren exclaimed. “All we needed to do was walk into the right place and we were transported but the plants and vines weren’t.”
Annie nodded and added, “Also why aren’t there any animals in here? I can’t believe that a bird or small creature didn’t scurry across it.”
There was nothing in the room and nothing to indicate anything special. Finally, they decided to force open the door. It slipped gently into the wall, very similar to the design used by their own ships. It wasn’t hard to move, and on the other side of the door was a long corridor.
“No signage at all. How did these people find their way?” Jan asked.
“They might have been less dependant on sight and more dependant on smells or sounds?” Annie suggested.
“Or whatever powers this place is shut down or dead and all the signage was projected or on screens.” Seren pointed at more black rectangles that looked like control panels. But the idea of smells and sounds made her wonder. “Have you noticed something about the air?”
“It’s clean. Not musty or shut in, but completely fresh. No outdoor smells either.” Jan looked surprised. “That means there’s something purifying the air.”
“So if something is keeping up life support but not signage or doors that means?” Annie asked and the other two shrugged.
They walked down a few more corridors without trying any of the doors. They were hoping to come across a control room or better, a library.
“This place is starting to feel familiar.” Seren couldn’t place why.
Annie, however, said, “It’s the same layout as the engineering floors of the Hokulua station.”
Taking the lead, Jan said, “That means there’s a control room just over this way.”
They ran towards the control room and opened the door. Inside, they expected a lot of computer equipment, but instead there was one screen attached to a small grey cube.
The screen turned on as they came inside and flashed several distorted images before simply showing green letters on black that said, “Hello.”
While you wait for the next chapter, check out the previous serial story: