Supera Astra: Fireflies in the Mountain

 

The tracks led from the base of the mountain to the start of the forest that hides its entrance. Nile set up camp at the foot of Mt. Alchimia, an inactive volcano home to a secluded laboratory operated by the Numerati Animo. The faction uses this outpost to conduct classified experiments known only to the Brainfront. Nile, President of Engineering at Horus, has taken interest in the facility to aid in her own research efforts back home. She’s on Glacies, a planet in a hive-run star-system residing in the outer rim of the Milk Way. It’s an icy world home to massive sub-surface oceans pressurized by hydro-thermal vents on the ocean floor. The world also shares a unique gravitational bond with its host star, which stretches and compresses in a constant state of malleability. Cryo-volcanic activity on Glacies is alive and well; with the result being an underwater world so violent, few dare to explore. It has long been known as the “The Sculpted Seas” after its ever-evolving landscapes and treacherous conditions. For Numerati scientists, the environment is perfect. But why the secrecy you ask? Well, it’s clear the hive are not scared of any internal threats within their own galaxy. For them, it’s safer to practice obscure science in seclusion just in case any wiser, more advanced beings are watching. This was done even if that meant building more expensive equipment to withstand the harsh weather of the sea. You don’t question orders from the Dream Eater.

The underwater labs contain fields of enormous linked structures built to pick up on weakly interacting particles called neutrinos. Detectors like this are required to be underwater so they remain free from interference by cosmic rays and microwave radiation. A neutrino is the only particle known to contemporary physics that is almost completely void of mass and travels close to the speed of light. Having almost zero mass is well… rather important if you wanted to craft a squadron of new spaceships light enough to journey to other galaxies at unprecedented speeds. For the longest time neutrinos were loosely studied by the Numerati until a new concept was introduced by the Somnium Comedenti herself. Then this lab was funded and formed. The Comedenti appointed her best scientists and engineers to the project. Imagine that? Cyborgs who can think better than other cyborgs. Intelligence even evolves across circuit boards. Anyway, Nile believes the Numerati are attempting to harvest the lightweight properties of neutrino particles. If you could blend these properties with various lightweight metals used in making starships, it might be possible to travel close to the speed of light. In theory.

Ok, ok, ok… I get it. How am I making these educated guesses? Short answer, I’m not. Long answer, I’ve been monitoring their plans via an informant. My friend Tempus infiltrated their facility a few months ago and has remained an active spy. T works for me as a contractor, to which I then sell uncovered information to Horus. That is how and why Nile is here. But how has the hive not taken notice of Tempus? How can they not read his organic compound structure instead of a normal robotic nervous system? Well, I helped. I developed an omni-directional cloak of hyper-weaved nano fibers that can project a vision of anything I choose to the outside world. When the Numerati swarmed Tempus’ planet, the counter-software I installed in his clone taught me how the Brainfront codes their firewalls to keep restricted information hidden from the lower ranking hive members. From this technology, I developed the cloak, which has allowed Tempus to pose as a hive cyborg without ever having to worry about being caught. To all who work and deal with Tempus, they are seeing a mere hologram of what lies within. They are watching a movie in which I am the director, siphoning their data and deceiving their motherboard corneas.

So… what's the plan?

Nile has an ace up her sleeve and that Ace’s name is Hapi. Hapi is a sweet boy. He also happens to be Nile’s most prized possession. A swift and lean wolf, born of natural law but saved by Nile on Earth before the company made its permanent departure off-world. As temperatures on Earth rose, arctic animals were forced to travel into human cities where they did not belong. They were searching for answers and for help. Mostly all were slaughtered by frantic humans keeping their children, and themselves, safe. As the planet spun into its own self-made Hell dimension, most humans were no longer concerned with the safety of any species but their own. And sometimes, not even that. Nile found little Hapi beaten half to death on the edge of town. The pup was attacked by a man hunting with a baseball bat who died trying to bludgeon his last meal. Quickly, Nile took a break from her expedition, snatched up the tiny wolf pup, and brought him back to HQ to perform surgery. He had severe limb damage and brain trauma. After a long and grueling night, Nile had saved the youngster’s life with robotic limbs and a new core processor. The wolf was cybernetic now. A hybrid beauty of arctic fur and machine. After a few years, little Hapi grew to the size of a dominant alpha male and was little no more. Several surgeries were conducted to maintain the size of his parts consistent with his growth spurts. She named him after a great flood that almost killed her when she was just a child. For Nile, a new field agent was born.

Back to the present, Hapi has been sent in on a reconnaissance mission to meet up with Tempus. I retrofitted the wolf’s gear with the same cloaking device used by T. The cause for the mission was an unknown energy source. His Data collected over the past few months shows residual energy exiting through the crater atop the volcano. Nile can’t get a precise reading on what the substance seems to be or where the source within the mountain resides. However, she has reported its sheer beauty as it mixes and glistens with the Milky Way backdrop. Whether danger or beauty, they need to get inside. Tempus has begun leading Hapi thru the tunnels and into a storage room where the wolf will begin its mission. We watched through the wolf’s eyes. The goal of the mission is clear. Sneak in, survey the main lab/source of the energy, record video footage, get out. The fun would come later after Nile and the gang knew how to plan strategically against the enemy. But something has just gone terribly wrong. A component in Hapi’s software has malfunctioned rendering both cloaks useless. This is my fault for thinking I knew all the ins and outs of their gear! The tech was too new for field usage… what have I done? The hive scientists have taken notice immediately. Hapi sent Nile a warning as both make a run for it. Tempus knew most of the facility but the common areas he frequented were blocked off. Instead, he and the wolf continued to search for a way out but it’s too late. The escape was quickly defeated as the lab director had them restrained by guards. We continued to watch through the eyes of Nile’s pet wolf; wondering if anything could be done. And that’s when it happened. Right before our eyes, we were gifted with courage and sorrow. Tempus was hanging by a rope above a vat of glowing, strange, matter. The object looks like a pool full of fireflies blinking through the thick haze of a Jovian thunderstorm. What was this thing? What have they created? Sadly, no time to think. Before we could try, Tempus’ rope had been cut. Hapi burst out of his hold, dashed at Tempus, and leaped across the exotic pit to knock him off his free fall. My friend, Tempus, landed on the hard metal ground adjacent the unknown structure. Broken bones are likely but hard to tell. Nile’s friend, Hapi, took the place of Tempus and fell directly into the pit. We heard nothing but a deep howl as the cameras faded to black. Then a soft voice whispered.

Be humble for you are made of Earth. Be noble for you are made of stars.

To be continued.