Jaimila was the first to notice the faint breeze.
The gravimetric sensors had been showing some strange readings for hours. Sometimes they would tell me that the shaft below us was only a mile deep. Moments later, it would pitch downwards into infinity.
The Captain had other worries on her mind. Cecila Siccorra had been bugging her about the increasing number of malfunctions on the ship. We were weeks away from any kind of starport or repair facility, so any concerns I had were low on her list of priorities.
It was only when the whisper became a gale and the first cracks appeared in the megastructure that we realised our danger.
It was as though we were running into a hurricane when we staggered into the airlock and the relative calm of the Thunderbolt. On the bridge, the Captain and Siccorra looked dumbfounded at the banks of red lights filling the control boards.
Looking out of the windows, we could see the megastructure opening up like a flower, sending mile high sections into the boiling sky. Every sensor at my disposal was off the scale, recording wild fluctuations of electrical, magnetic and gravitic force.
Some two hours later, the whole ship shuddered as a pillar of light shot into the sky. Across the boards, red lights turned to green as the Thunderbolt awoke from its unconsciousness. For a moment, there was complete silence.
The Captain slumped unsteadily against Alessia and had to be helped to a chair. For a moment, I thought she would pass out. "They’re coming", she murmured, before closing her eyes.
Moments later, a grotesque form many miles across began to emerge from the pit. It rose slowly into the air, surrounded by filaments of fire and plasma. Swarms of smaller forms swirled around it, tending and protecting it.
The behemoth jacked itself higher into the sky, a vast craft supported on glowing jets of fire. Behind me, the Captain had started babbling again, but this time she was fearful telling unheard voices to stop.
It took Alessia's shouts to break our frozen indecision. Siccorra jumped across into the Captain's chair and under her flying fingers, the Thunderbolt sprung to life. The fusion drives were ignited at low altitude sending us high into the sky.
The comms speakers crackled into life and a strange guttural sound filled the bridge. Behind us, a pack of smaller craft detached from the swarm and moved into pursuit. Thunderbolt is a very fast ship by commercial standards, but it was not going to outrun these craft in time to jump outside the gravity well. In spite of that, Alessia gave the order to power up the hyperdrive.
In a large void previously occupied by our fusion power plant, a truck sized construction of white and blue metal began emitting torrents of power, feeding the fusion drives and the voracious demands of the jump drive. It had saved us on many occasions by freeing us from the demands of gas giant refueling. I hoped that it would save us now.
The Captain had come here in search of something and that something had found us. Looking down into the maw that had opened below us, I could see stars and nebulae, a door through the planet into another place.
-- Cyana Bristo, former scientist with the Echolian Science Institute
V3 figure with Sapphire Fox hair and JWear created in Poser 6.
Scene assembly and final rendering in Vue 5 Pro Studio. Post processed in Photoshop CS2