Thunderbird: Chapter Twenty-Four

Starting File Sequence…  Thunderbird
Loading Digital Data…    Chapter Twenty-Four
Initializing Play Back…  Dark Space
Galaxy:   /Not Available
Cluster: /Not Available
System:   /Not Available
Location: /Not Available
Date:     2186 CE

Tasi slowly opened her eyes. With a long and heavy yawn, she continued to lay in bed. The lights in the crew’s quarters were dim but were beginning to brighten up imitating the morning hours. Normally, she would get up immediately and start work in the engineering room. However, there wasn’t much to do. She’d done most of her duties over the past few days, but the results were the same: they were lost in dark space.

When they barely escaped from the Tartarus Debris Field, the mass relay was damaged. Instead of sending them to their inputted destination, the relay sent them across the galaxy and dropped them off in dark space.

The Thunderbird was suspended in darkness. They floated just outside the Milky Way galaxy. An image appeared on Tasi’s visor.

“We really could use your input in the Tech Research Lab,” Vicia said. “We really need to discuss some option on what to do moving forward.”

Tasi nodded, “On my way.”

She sat up and started for the entrance. Tasi passed by Vurtak as he sat at his usual stomping ground. He sat at the bar drinking. The smell of ryncol permeated throughout the quarters. He nodded at her as she walked passed.

Tasi made her way down the ramp into the cargo bay. Consensus turned to acknowledged Tasi with a nod. It continued examining the shuttle as she walked passed. As Tasi stepped onto the elevator, she noticed Scylla and Yatka sparring in the armory. Up on the first floor, Tasi made her way to the Tech Research Lab.

Vicia stood beside Ip. The salarian’s left arm was in a sling and cast. They spoke around the holograph table in the center of the room. As Tasi entered, the others turned to her.

“Sorry to call you in this early,” Vicia said.

Tasi nodded, “It’s fine. Do we have a plan to get back home?”

“More or less,” Vicia said with a little uncertainty. She nodded to Ip, “Tell her what we know.”

Ip smiled. She touched the table and the images of the galaxy they knew so well, the Milky Way, “AVI was able to figure out that the mass relay spat us out right here, a few hundred light years just outside the Milky Way galaxy. Normally it would take a few hundred years to get back with just our FTL thrusters. Thanks to Tasi’s tests on the drive core, we may have a few options.”

“As it turns out,” Vicia took over, “this ship used to belong to Cerberus, as Kritt has told us before. Cerberus used this vessel as a testing ground for several experimental pieces of technology, the drive core included.”

Tasi bowed her head slightly, “I noticed. Even under the intense strain of the damaged relay, it increased a power output that I haven’t seen before and I know my drive cores. A drive core this large is unheard of for a ship this small in comparison. Looking through the data, I saw something about an ODSY Drive System.”

Ip smiled, “Correct. AVI did a bit of research. The ODSY Drive System was originally a massive experimental drive core specifically designed for the traveling across intergalactic distances. It was designed for the Andromeda Initiative, a civilian multi-species project created to send scientists, explorers, and colonists on a one-way trip to settle in the Andromeda Galaxy. Apparently, this ship was designed to be one of many that Cerberus wanted to use to cross galaxies.”

“How is that possible? It takes millions of years to cross inter-galactic space,” Tasi narrowed her eyes, “How did they plan to deal with living that long on a small space like this?”

Vicia crossed her arms with a know-it-all smile on her face, “Cryogenic sleep. Apparently, the bunks in the Crew Quarters double as cryo pods.”

“That’s your plan? Cryogenic sleep?” Tasi asked.

Vicia nodded, “We sleep a few years and we wake up back home. Sure, we might be a few hundred years late but better its better than never.”

“Thankfully, we’ve got AVI and Consensus,” Ip laughed, “They don’t have to worry about aging and can handle the ship while we sleep.”

The lab’s intercom buzzed to life. AVI’s voice echoed, “That is correct. Even at low power modes, I am able to function with optimal efficiency. I will protect and defend the ship as well if necessary.”

“Give an AI a little freedom and she gets a little gun crazy,” Vicia said with a smile. She turned to Tasi, “What do you think?”

Tasi was quiet for a few moments. It did make sense. What else could they do? They didn’t have nearly enough food and supplies to last the whole trip awake. Going into cryo sleep was the best solution. Tasi sighed. It was strange to think about. They would go to sleep then wake up several years later.

After a few moments, Tasi nodded, “Sounds like a plan. How are we going to tell the others?”

“Don’t worry,” Vicia smiled, “Leave that to me. For now, I want you to help Ip shut down all non-essential devices.” Tasi nodded and looked over at the salarian. Vicia turned to leave the lab, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to explain to Kritt that he’ll have to leave the comfort of his chair.”

“Good luck with that,” Tasi muttered.

Vicia waved her hand as she left the room, “Thanks, I’ll need it.”

“I think I’ll start shutting things down on the second floor. Can you handle things from here?” Tasi turned to Ip but stopped.

The salarian normally bubbly and chipper looked solemn as she stared out the window of the lab at the blank darkness that lay beyond. Ip seemed lost in her own thoughts. She sighed.

“Twenty-four years,” she said softly. She looked down at the floor, “It would take approximately twenty-four years to get to the edge of our galaxy and access a mass relay. But twenty-four years would have passed. I would have missed my mother’s funeral. She’s a big pillar in the Salarian Union. All of Sur’Kesh would weep at her lost. The family would put together the most beautiful funeral.”

Tasi stayed quiet. Ip looked up at her and forced a mournful smile.

“Salarians don’t live all that long,” Ip explained, “At most, we live for 40 years. A drawback of our active metabolism. Come to think of it, Kritt is in the same boat too, isn’t he? Vorcha only live till 20. He’ll miss an entire generation.”

Tasi placed a hand on Ip’s shoulder. The salarian closed her eyes and took a deep breath, “Right. Let’s get going. Maybe we’ll shave off a few years or something.”

Tasi nodded and headed out into the hall. She looked into the lab through the window and watched Ip shutting down several pieces of equipment while also placing her unfinished gizmos into storage. Tasi headed back down to the second floor. Her first stop was engineering.

She stood at one of the consoles as the drive core hummed quietly as it sat idle. Tasi emptied the heat sinks, releasing the heat stored within the ship into the frozen void of space. The lights dimmed to a dull blue glow as everything was placed on standby. Tasi turned to leave then stopped. She looked at the sleeping drive core. There was a tinge of sadness that she wouldn’t be able to see it at its peak performance as it sped them back to their galaxy. But she had to trust that AVI and Consensus knew what they were doing.

The armory was already dark. Tasi walked in and went to one of the lockers. She opened it and placed both her pistol and shotgun inside. The locker closed with a clang and she stepped back out in to the cargo area.

Scylla and Consensus seemed to be communicating with one another with the girl signing quickly.

Don’t water the plants to much or they will drown.

Consensus responded with a series of groans and electronic clicks. It seemed to acknowledge its directions.

The geth looked up at Tasi as she approached, “The preparations are set. Leader-Bellanus and the others are awaiting your arrival.”

Together they stepped into the Crew’s Quarters. Already Kritt and Vurtak were placed under. A kinetic barrier had formed in a dome around their bodies as they slept in their beds. Ice crystals started to form on the inside of the barrier. The controls were on the foot of each bed and displayed heartrate, breathing, brain activity, and temperature. Each bed was connected to its own power source ensuring that even if the ship lost power, the pods would not.

Vicia stood at the foot of Vurtak’s bed as she looked over all the details. She looked over at the others as they entered. Vicia smiled and nodded to the bunk beside her. Scylla climbed onto her bed and laid down. Yatka stood a small distance away watching. Consensus stood at the foot of the bed and started the preparations for cryo sleep.

Vicia injected Scylla with an intravenous needle into the girl’s arm. Throughout the course of their trip they would be fed intravenously all the nutrition that they would need to keep the body functioning.

The kinetic barrier formed, and a gas began to fill the tube. Scylla breathed deeply and closed her eyes. Soon the temperature began to drop and crystals formed on the inside of the barrier. In just a few moments, she was in deep cryo-sleep.

Vicia glanced at Tasi. She motioned to the bunk beside her, “Consensus can get Yatka settled. Let’s get you under.”

Tasi nodded and headed over to the bed. She situated herself. Vicia injected her with an intravenous needle before talking to the controls at the foot of the bed. Soon a barrier surrounded her. Gradually, she grew groggy. Crystals started to obscure her vision. Soon she closed her eyes and gave in to the dreamless sleep.

In the engineering room the drive core came to life. With everyone asleep, AVI activated the core as she positioned the Thunderbird in preparation for FTL travel toward the Milky Way Galaxy. She lowered the ships plating over the windows while Consensus walked up onto the bridge. As the ship turned, the image of their galaxy came into view. Billions and billions of stars burned bright in the darkness.

Consensus logged the sight in its memory banks. After a brief accord between the 2,137 geth programs in its system, it was determined that Scylla would enjoy seeing image when she awoke. As the drive core increase its pulsing, the stars started streaking passed the ship turning from dots into lines.

The ship’s metal plates closed over the front windows just before being shot forward through dark space toward the collection of lights. Consensus turned around and left the bridge. It walked aft toward the life support room. The primary console was shut off as there was no need for synthetics to need air. The room itself was preserved, a barrier at the door protecting the plants inside.

Consensus placed its hand on the console connected to the plants as it integrated with the system. A few moments later it me began to mist. It stood in silence and watched as mist fall lightly on the leaves.

File Sequence… Completed
All Files… Stored
A.V.I System… Entering Low Power Mode
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