My descent retraced many of the access tunnels that had brought my party back to the surface. Keeping my torch low and glancing at the artefacts glowing map, I found my way back to the immense chambers where much of the mining had taken place. It had taken some three hours to get there, and my need for sleep was becoming difficult to resist. Behind me, the mercs appeared to have become quite lost, but their attempts to move deeper into the mine were with purpose; I suspected that the company man had some kind of map of his own.
The smaller of the mining chambers held the blue enigma, gleaming softly in the arc lamps and surrounded by floating detritus. I snapped off my torch to give my eyes the best opportunity to see what lay below, but could see no way of clambering down without grav assistance or ropes. What I could see though was a greater darkness in the side of the pit near the craft with edges cut at perfect rectangles. It was the hangar we had seen before, a void leading from the rough-hewn shaft and whose regular shape suggested that it was not used as a source of ore.
The blue pebble showed the chamber as a ghostly oblong with straight tendrils leading to it from smaller rooms and small cylinders nearby. A thick vertical line rose from the chamber and met a net of passages some hundred metres from my current position, which when I investigated turned out to be a lift shaft. Two decayed bodies lay face down near the lift doors. They were dressed in lab suits and gloves that had become brittle and stiff over the years. The lift door was closed near their feet, but when I prised the doors apart discovered that the lift car was nowhere to be seen. The staircase turned out to be little better than a series of stepladders, welded to the side of the rails that supported the lift shaft.
The slick and corroded metal of the handrail only added to my sense of vertigo and danger as I slowly descended. I clipped and unclipped karabiners as I went, but judging by the condition of the steps and stanchions available, were small comfort for my tired and sleep starved mind. The last few metres were the hardest and most treacherous of all. Debris filled the shaft to a depth of two metres, comprising wood, metal, and small stones. The lift car was crushed and the access doors were completely missing. I guessed from the standing water below me that a catastrophic flood had taken place here.
When I finally stood on flat ground, my torch revealed a silt covered metal floor littered with small rocks. High above me some lights glowed softly, though many of their companions had burned out. Small doors led from the chamber, but like the lift shaft had been crushed and filled with debris and mud. I ventured carefully to the edge of the hangar and looked out at the sculpted blue shape of the alien craft lying on its side in the murky water. Stowage boxes, equipment and pieces of wood floated silently around it, like a series of stepping-stones or lily pads.
Looking down into the dark water, I could see that it was gently ruffled by a steady flow of water from the hangar floor, causing the lights around the mining shaft to scintillate with a hypnotic rhythm. It was like looking up at the night sky, a field of lights dancing for my pleasure.
Another suddenly joined the constellations of lights, not the torch of my pursuers but a soft glow of light behind me. My skin prickled with fear as I turned to see an apparition floating a few metres away. It was like a hologram, but seemed to lack any obvious structure or form. For a moment, I had no voice and stood there without breathing. The light changed form and it seemed for a moment that it was extending a hand to me. My sleepy brain imagined that there was a face in the light and that it was trying to talk to me.
"Who, who are you?" I stammered fearfully.
The light seemed to brighten and extend its arms in greeting.
"I'm not sure," it said slowly. "I have a name, but I forget." The light paused for a moment. "I was human once."
-- Mona Asuridanavan
V3 figure in Shadow Dancer outfit. Ship model is an original model created in Truespace and Hexagon.
Scene assembly and final rendering in Vue 8 Complete. Post processed in Photoshop CS2