My hand computer blurted out yet another calculation error, a not so subtle reminder that I should have gone to sleep long ago.
I had been working on the sensor readings for hours, ever since our starboard engine had fallen into the hypersurface and vanished in a flash of light. The sense of dread and helplessness that fell over the crew lifted momentarily when the shattered drive had disappeared, because it offered the hope that our impending collision with the infinite plane would not end with a crash. What my science computer could not tell me was what the alternative outcome might be.
I knew that if I found my bunk I still would not sleep, so I made my way to the cargo area to gaze once more at the stone artefacts that Captain Rhand had accumulated on her travels. I remembered one of the stones well, for it was the strange grey slab that my expedition team had uncovered on Hycaron II, whose exposure to light had triggered a nightmare I care not to recall. The adjacent stone was found in happier times, suggested by markings on other stones to be buried on a small island in the oceans of Seven Sisters. I was already developing an understanding of the markings, and finding the stone was proof that my theories were correct.
We had marched across the island for hours, till we reached a wide flat depression. The local variety of scrub and young trees covered most of the landmass, but right at the centre of the dip lay an old stone ruin, where the trees and grass around it were strangely warped and misshapen. Dark patches on the earth and discarded cans and packaging showed that we were not the first visitors, so I feared that we might have been too late. My instruments specially tuned to detect anomalies said otherwise, and eventually we found the artefact buried deep in the rubble.
It confirmed what I was beginning to suspect, that some ancient race had created a network of tunnels or gates that connected across vast reaches of space. These stones seemed to be markers or beacons, used perhaps for cosmic scale calibration or navigation, each finely detailed and suffused with atomic scale tracks and lines in patterns and shapes too complex to comprehend.
After the fall of the Shepherds almost half a million years ago, it was assumed that there had been no new intelligent races until the emergence of our own and related humanoid species. Here was evidence that another culture had walked the stars during that long dark age, having mastered a form of interstellar travel completely different from our own.
Now we were in their realm, having followed one of their mother ships to who knows where. Bursts of light revealed little of this bleak and dreary place, except for the suggested shapes of nightmares reaching out from the murk. Did they create this place, or was it their homeland, a monstrous limbo stretching into infinity?
Chill thoughts sent my mind scurrying back to the safety of my science computer and the problems immediately to hand. I was entering more data into my keypad when a loud klaxon sounded in the otherwise silent ship. Captain Rhand ordered all personnel to their stations, and instructed everyone to put on a vacuum suit.
We hit the hypersurface in ten minutes.
-- Cyana Bristo, scientist, formerly with the Echolian Science Institute.
V3 figures with the Xurge3D Nano suit. Nano suit uses a custom made texture.
Scene assembly and final rendering in Vue 6 Pro Studio. Post processed in Photoshop CS2