INT – DAY – Robo-moon entry tunnel
Aerial shot following the ship.
The tunnel is a couple of times wider than Tajemnica. It is lined on all sides with dual turrets, rail-gun in the middle and a laser bump on one side. Dozens of them. They pass slowly down the tunnel, with massive doors opening before them, and closing behind, like a giant series of air-locks. They pass five sets of them, and the space between them is much longer than the ship. They are going deep inside the moon. After the last set of doors, it opens into a large domed room, at least a kilometer across. Tajemnica rotates and settles down toward the “bottom” of it, settling onto a large well-lit “X” on the floor, one of a half-dozen. There are a number of large hatches surrounding the room, both at ground level and higher up on the walls. The side ramp lowers slowly. Allonia walks down the ramp, and over to a nearby kiosk, and extends her hand.
Everyone watches the view unfold on the screens, breath held. They see her extend her hand, and place it on a glowing palm-print. She holds it there. The the view of the screen on the kiosk flickers, shows readings scrolling by.
Ship AI: (elderly monk) They have a sample. Testing it may take a few minutes. Possibly much longer.
Helton: At lest they haven’t shot us yet. Be kind of hard to fight our way out of here.
Robo-Moon: (OC) DNA screen passed. Epoch failsafe mode engaged. Please scan all personnel for future access.
Helton: Can’t be THAT easy. Can it?
Ship AI: (elderly monk) Perhaps. I’m talking to the moon AI now. The “epoch fail-safe” for the moon kicked in when there had been no contact at all from a controlling authority for more than two centuries, standard time. At that point, ANY valid engineered source DNA was acceptable to provide for a restart and redirection of sorts, and it wants redundancy. The programmers apparently thought that if it had not been checked on in two hundred years, SOMETHING went wrong, and a re-boot might be in order. Not sure if that is SOP.
Helton: Well, it sure as HELL is good for us HERE. Let’s go see what we just inherited.
Cut to series of scenes within the robo-moon
- A long, wide, low-ceiling tunnel with grow-lights lining the roof and neat, uniform rows of green grain going into the distance. There appear to be a bulkhead with airtight doors spaced about every hundred meters.
- Another long, tunnel, this one much narrower, lined with heavy metal shelves, each neatly stacked with ammo crates. Harbin is examining an open crate of linked light machine-gun ammo, long, pointy 6.5mm bullets shining a bright copper in the light. Again, there is a bulkhead with air-tight doors at the end
- Long, low tunnel, lined with racks holding long missile-sized tubes, about 3m long by 20cm diameter.
- Long, low tunnel, with racks of high-tech armor, clearly in different sizes.
- Long, low tunnel, racks of crates labeled “Rifle, 6.5mm, M210”, and Kaushik is function-testing one of them.
- Entry to a tunnel. It is completely blocked by a stack of boxes, floor to ceiling, wall to wall. Helton, Allonia, Kwon, Sar, and Quinn are sampling a food ration bar from an open box tucked under Helton’s arm. They are alternately nodding or frowning a bit, expressing their general thoughts on the flavor and texture of the food.
- Long, low tunnel, with racks and racks of Roman-style lorica segmentata, shields, swords, spears, and similar tools of ancient war.
- Long, high tunnel, lined with 4-high bunks, with both wall-lockers and foot-lockers underneath.
- Large tunnel, open door showing the huge landing cavern with Tajemnica in it. Lining the sides are three rows of grav tanks, each row a different model. One row of them look just like the ones they had used before, in the level violation enforcement action. One is much larger, and would just barely fit into the main cargo bay hatch, with multiple heavily armed turrets. One is smaller, more like a one-man light tank, with many smaller weapons sprouting from its turret – lasers, rail-guns, conventional Gatling guns, grenade launchers, looking like it’s designed for ground fighting against lightly armored targets rather than tanks.
- Large tunnel, open door showing the huge landing cavern with Tajemnica in it, but from a different angle as before. There are three lines of things that don’t look quite like tanks, but like turrets mounted on hatch-covers, as though to replace the tank-carrier hatches semi-permanently to add guns that were not normally detachable, but also a lot more streamlined. One line of turret hatches have only a pair of heavy guns, one has four quad-mounts of light guns, one has a mix of heavy and light weapons on it.
- Long, large tunnel with a large furnace with a billet of hot steel rolling out of in and through rollers that are squishing it into a thinner strip for manufacturing. The red-orange light from the hot metal casts an evil glow on everything.
- Large room, well-lit, lots of cafeteria-style tables, long serving line with a galley behind it on the far side.
- Helton standing at the kiosk next to the landing spot being scanned, hand on the light-up palm-print on top of it.
INT – DAY – Tajemnica’s mess room
The crew and the Plataeans are sitting at lunch. On a wall screen is the monk avatar. Across from it is the Robo-moon Avatar, a slender man in simple uniform at a desk. On other screens, various data is scrolling by.
Quiritis: Can they fix the damaged tank hatch?
Ship AI: (after a pause) Yes. They have numerous replacement parts, though they are mostly of inferior quality to those used in my construction. It can be replaced by one that would be standard on an Orion-class, D-model ship. Better than the current damaged hatch, not as good as original.
Helton: Can you give them specs for building a new one to YOUR specs?
Ship AI: Yes, but it will take a quite a while to manufacture. New tooling, entirely new processes. It will have to cannibalize some of the existing parts for materials. It is FAR more than a simple cast slab of metal with some locking bolts.
Lag: The planet looked pretty good from what we saw. Why’d it fail?
Robo-Moon AI: Restate question. Terraforming did not fail.
Allonia: Why are there no people on the planet?
Robo-Moon AI: They were not of our corporation, and they were within the active exclusion zone.
Helton: So you killed them?
Robo-moon AI: Non-corporate interests were excluded from exclusions zone, to secure resources.
Ship AI: Ah, I see. There are still a number of active terraforming machines operating on the surface. Two hundred twenty eight. The terraforming has been quite successful, just not for any human inhabitants.
Helton: Can we re-define the exclusion zone to not extend past the near side of atmo?
Ship AI: Affirmative. Or, we could allow SOME ships inside the zone. Such as ourselves.
Harbin: Finally got enough ammo. How many rounds again?
Robo-Moon AI: Small arms, four point four trillion-
Sar: Oh, enough of that for now – you can look ‘em up later! Food stocks, now THERE is real currency!
Kwon: Not very high grade taste-wise, but plenty of calories for a LONG while.
Helton: So, now that we have our own little world and arms bazaar, what shall we do with it? Big picture?
Lag: Not quite ready to settle down and be a farmer, but nice to know it’s here if I do.
Allonia: Good place to hide and rest up, but with no people, not very exciting.
Kaushik: (looking at Bipasha) Quiet neighborhood. Might be a good place to start a family.
Bipasha: Not quite sure if I’m ready to settle down quite yet, either.
Helton: Yes, you DID want decisions and excitement, if I recall.
Quinn: Still want to see more of the universe!
Kaminski: We will, Quinn. Not sure what we’ll be doing while seeing it, but we can figure something out. (joking) A whole planet. Hell of a dowry, Allonia. Who gets it?
Lag: Long term will need some thinking. LOTS of possibilities, most of which I’m sure none of us have thought of yet. In the short term, there’s a lot of activity in the New Medina area to check out, got some things to look into around there. Several contingent contracts.
Quiritis: We still have drive testing to do as well. Still not sure how far we can push things.
Bipasha: How many worlds are like this one? Terraformed, but off-limited because of one of these robo-moons?
Ship AI: Uncertain. At least two others like this with some terraforming success from long-distance observation. Nine more systems are complicated by them, such as Emirate II. Perhaps many in systems that have not yet come out of the dark.
Helton: But we can’t assume we can access ANY of them.
Kaminski: Why not?
Lag: Different corporations, different genes.
Helton: I’m pretty sure only one attempt will be allowed.
Ship AI: We have no data on what sort of failsafe systems are in place anywhere but here.
Allonia: Not so sure I want to risk this again anywhere else.
Helton: But if we COULD get any others, and sell their resources-
Allonia: Or just shut it down and put it on self-destruct.
The rest look at her in surprise.
Allonia: All these weapons in the wrong hands could be VERY bad.
Lag: The wrong hands already HAVE all the weapons they need, most times. And usually they only need a few weapons and lots of data about who to apply them on. These guns could arm some righteous insurrections.
Kaminski: It’s YOUR world now, so keeping a security system in place HERE would be prudent.
Helton: LOTS of possibilities, and for once, a bit of time to consider them.
Ship AI: Perhaps. But I am receiving a emergency signal.
Helton breaths in and out with an exaggerated “spoke just a SECOND too soon” expression, and everyone looks expectantly at Tajemnica’s avatar on the screen.
Ship AI: I’m am very sorry for letting my attention wonder, exploring this facility. Many fascinating corners. I didn’t notice that the edge of a rather strong swirl is passing the system. A star-liner was forced in here to escape it, and the subspace transition turbulence has stranded them. No hurry, though. They are stuck, and we may be, too.
Fade to black
[wow. Episode 100. Nearly to the end]