Arol Hernez (9 of Spades)
With the drones converging on their position the pair had few options. The continued gravitational pulses prevented retreat while it was only a matter of time before the Knights noticed that the drones had abandoned their work and Varis had made clear her opinion on turning themselves in. With Varis having dashed any chance at subtly he took a chance and activated his suits embedded sensor suite to map the hanger. The high-energy pulse took only a fraction of a second to build a framework while followup directed pulses worked on elucidating fine details. Numbers and trajectories overlaid his vision as the suit sought to highlight the details and buried amongst it he found what he’d sought.
It was on the far side of the hanger, beneath the curve of an enormous engine cowl that was being slowly manoeuvred into position but it was there. A way out. A flick of his wrist sent the data to Varis.
“If we’re going to get across this hanger we need to move now.” He backed the words up by breaking into a run, trusting in the initiate to follow. The route through the hanger was convoluted, a maze of components and partially assembled compartments that they were forced to scramble over and around. After losing a further two of their number to Varis’s blade the drones kept their distance, circling above and behind them like vultures waiting for them to falter and fall. As they neared the hatch his HUD pinged with an incoming transmission, the priority code of the XenoArchaeology Directorate forcing it into view. The file was small, and decrypted almost instantly. A system wide warrant for his detainment, matched with an unnervingly accurate list of his crimes since leaving the service.
There was only one that he hadn’t committed. The most recent. The murder of Knights Initiate Saiya Varis.
Varis (King of Clubs)
She was only a second, or at most two, behind Arol as they reached the far side of the hanger and made the last dash for the hatch. The drones that had followed them had maintained a perfect 21.35 metres from her since she’d downed the third but now, with machine precision they swarmed towards her. Three times her knife lashed out, precise arcs that sliced through their cores and dropped them to the floor. As formidable as her training was it was also incomplete and as she ducked under the welding arms of one assailant another latched on to the control disc in the back of her suit, overriding the servos and freezing her to the spot. Silent alarms flashed in her vision as the drone reprogrammed environmental controls, cutting off her oxygen supply. All she could do was watch as Arol made it to the hatch, untouched by the drones that had prioritised her as a threat. As he turned and realised what had happened she took a desperate gamble, flicking the gravimetric dagger from the tips of her fingers. The field generator did the rest of the work, accelerating the blade into the control panel beside him and triggering the release of the emergency bulkhead.
Arol Hernez (3 of Clubs)
He’d lost track of how long or how far he had wandered. After the bulkhead cut him off from Varis he had grabbed the dagger and run. No direction, just away, deeper into the interior of the Array. Eventually he came to a door that was unlike anything the others. A light, grey metal painted with a fading symbol that was familiar to even the youngest children. It had been carried by the colonists as they had left their home so long ago. A yellow star in the centre surrounded by a blue circle with a single green dot. Earth. The silent ancestral home.
Dagger in hand he pushed it open, though at first the hinges resisted any movement. It opened into what he could only describe as an endless tunnel that fell away from him. Instinct led him to trigger the maglocks on his boots such was the feeling that he was staring not across but down into a vast abyss. As he tried to calm his senses motion along the smooth, pale wall caught his attention. As he watched the surface peeled back and a tube of blue glass extruded itself. A trio of drones approached, seemingly from nowhere carrying someone.
No, note someone but Varis, stripped of her suit and unconscious but seemingly alive. As two of the drones slid her effortlessly into the tube the third redirected itself towards him. Tired, scared and confused he made no effort to flee.
“Transmigration. Lifeboat stage IV incomplete. Containment protocols have been compromised. You will protect,” came through the intercom, the voice metallic but clear.
“I’ll what?,” was all he could manage in reply.
“You will protect. You are Navigator 1st Class Arol Hernez. Born 2287, died 2341. Current status: Fugitive from Knights of Ceres, marked by Interface for immediate termination. You. Will. Protect.”
As he struggled to process the meaning behind the voice there was a flash of light from the drone burned its way into his mind. Images flicked through his head, meaningless but structured. A light, all encompassing and so immense that it hurt to even think about. Schematics of the arrays, one after another. Some that had been lost, some yet to be constructed. A transmission received that had yet to be sent. Knowledge so overwhelming that it would have killed him if the Array had not intervened, reinforcing and expanding synaptic junctions in the time it took for the impulse to traverse them.
Eventually he understood. All of it. Others would be tasked with extinguishing the flame, his job was to safeguard the future, to protect the lifeboat and its occupants so they could be sent to the only place out of reach. Home.
This concludes my playthrough of Chiron’s Doom – You can find my review of the game here.