Arol Hernez (4 of diamonds)
Spooked by the approaching shuttle Varis pushed the group hard, into the superstructure of the Array where still functioning gravity plates negated the need for magboots and filament tethers. Having spent most of his life aboard ships Arol was the first to drop the pace set by the initiate, his suit barely managing to keep up with the sweat pouring down his face.
“We must be… half a click… deep by now,” was all he could manage between breaths, “there ain’t nobody… picking us out from here.”
It took the support of Layla but with no signs of pursuit he was able to convince Varis to slow the breakneck pace to one that allowed the expedition to properly take in their surroundings. They’d entered into a faintly lit tunnel, roughly twenty meters in diameter and lined with smooth, glass-like panelling that stretched endlessly into the distance. It was another twenty minutes before they same across the body, impaled on the curved wall by a broken panel only metres from another narrow entrance. While Varis helped aided him in cutting it free their patron explored further down the tunnel, hoping to come across anything the poor soul may have dropped.
The body was in poor condition and had clearly been exposed to the vacuum of the tunnel for some time. It was only once they had retrieved it that the scale of the injuries became truly apparent. Bones broken in multiple places while the suits control modules had crumpled in on themselves. Patching into the suit Arol was able to gather only the last few seconds of data, a silent video of individuals running towards the opening while the tunnel pulsed with a faint light. The perspective went haywire, as the fateful individual was thrown from their feet and met their end. The suit recorded a series of gravametric spikes, cycling between from weightlessness to 25g in a fraction of a second.
Beneath their feet the light pulsed without notice. A flash, then another, the separation between them closing with each repeat of the cycle.
Layla Saidi (King of Diamonds)
With the exception of the body it appeared that this section of the tunnel was empty. Whatever expedition they had been a part of was either unsuccessful or had chosen loot over the body of their companion. As she delved further it was the tunnel itself finally caught her eye.
“Did you see that? The light is getting stronger,” she voiced over the comm, kneeling down to inspect the surface more closely.
“What did you say,” came Arol, his voice only barely audible over a static that had suddenly swamped the channel.
“The light,” she shouted to ensure she was heard, “there’s a pattern and it’s getting stronger. The tech is active, there may be something to salvage here.”
It was only then that she looked up at her employees who were frantically waving, trying to get her attention. The static dominated the channel now, drowning out the words as the Navigator and Initiate ran for the nearby opening. Panicked by their actions she sprinted after them, getting mere metres before finding herself afloat, gravity having disappeared in an instant. As her hands fumbled for a filament line the gravity pulse hit, a fatal wave of acceleration that flung her from sight in an instant.
Varis (3 of Spades)
Varis and Arol had made it to the entrance with seconds to spare and could do nothing but watch as Layla was swept to her death. Death amongst Initiates was rare but not unheard of, the Knights were a martial force above all else, but the death of this woman she barely knew hit surprisingly hard. Without conscious thought she began to recite the Homeward Prayer, the words of return and rebirth that had comforted humanity through their long voyage to the stars.
“…you who have never known the soils of Earth yet yearns for its embrace. Find the beacon, your way home child of Sol. Walk the path, follow the Light and be at peace…”
The decision to turn their back on the tunnel required no words and the three that had become two continued on in silence. After only a few minutes they passed through an airlock and the passageway opened up onto a large, open space teeming with activity. Compact XenoTech drones buzzed through the air, working on an object at least the size of a small frigate. The noise would have been overwhelming without the suits, as materials were cut and welded into place with machine precision. At the base of the object was a small encampment. Human figures in stylised armour that mirrored the design of her own lightweight suit.
The Knights of Ceres had a foothold within the Array and there was no turning back.