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A Gyddai military research base is faced with a biological enigma, and an expedition to the underwater caves of planet Koje reveals the unexpected view of a long-dead city, housing a strange object that might be a remarkable source of knowledge... or danger.

Part I: Failed PoetryEdit

Inspiration hardly ever comes from expected sources. From the window on his leisure room, Xephois Deyre could see the wondrous vastness of space. A spectacular array of light; energy and distances far too great to be comfortably assimilated by a human-like mind. For the Gyddai think not too different from humans you know. Yet under these seemingly so appropriate stimulus, Deyre still could not write good poetry.

He typed distractedly on his keyboard. Results were atrocious. He tried concentrating, they got worse.

Alright, enough of poetry today. Then what to do? There were still five hours ahead before arriving on planet Koje, no preliminary reports to read and nobody else to talk. And plenty of cosmos to stare at. Poetry was an activity which the Gyddai considered not only valuable, but essential. The only option worse than failing at it would be not to even try it!

Perhaps he should try to write on his native language, Snaa, it had a smaller variety of words, but at least he felt he could master those better than the complicated idiom of Ravee, in which nearly all poems are traditionally written. But before that, he needed more vigor. Went down to the storing decks to get some food and started writing again...

Five hours and six failed poems later, Deyre had landed on the surface of the tropical planet.

He could see the Gyddai Base of Opperations and Miliatary Research on Koje. Unofficial designation: Lenemo. The name was from a character of Gyddai literature. Lenemo was an explorer who had the unluck to become trapped on a rock island, with absolute no shelter from the sun; until the sunlight somehow drove him crazy. Strange tale. The sort of thing people liked to read at the time it was written...

But the planet was indeed too bright, and the terrible smell of oxygen would take time to get accustomed to. Not the most pleasant of places, but adequately rich on resources and populated by some animals and plants that were worthy of study. After landing his ship Deyre was greeted by the Base's chief manager: Olenar Gryan, who asked about how he spent the voyage. It would be usual, under those circumstances, to offer to show him some poems or other artworks; but Deyre had nothing to be proud of.

"Great!" he thought "now I'm either lazy or uncreative"

Neither traits was very well thought off among the Gyddai

As they entered the first building, leading to the mostly subterranean structure, the oxygen smell dissolved away and the temperatures become lower and lower until reaching a very comfortable level. The walls of the base were decorated with sketches, most of them depicting the weird natural landscapes of Koje.

"How many people work here?" he asked Olenar

"Thirteen managers, fifty eight scientists, thirty nine engineers, twenty four chefs, seventeen janitors, three doctors, nineteen security guards, two full-time artists and one journalist"

In other words: small place. Well, it wasn't as if Koje was on any sort of strategic location anyway, it was well within the limits of what is taken in consensus as Gyddai Space for most of the galaxy.

"I heard that some of the local lifeforms here are quite promising for research" Deyre commented

"Yes, as you know, biological weapons has become as a less and less popular field. It just requires too much knowledge of alien races, and what good is it to create a bio-weapon for, say, the Salsenes, anyway? The real threat is the folks we know nothing about. The Elisri. And the Auctors. This sort of people. If, or should I say when, they decide to break into war; we must be prepared, and that means a lot of technological catching up"

"Yes"

"But we are making progress, taking different approaches. Each alien ecosystem is sure to have some useful material. Polymers, ah... whatever the folks call it. You find revolutionary things if you look hard enough"

"Sure, nature is the grandest engineer"

"Well, Deyre, let's show you the mess hall, shall we, you must be starving. Seek me in my room after lunch and I will call Berkee, he's one of our scientists, he will show you what's began to bother us. It's a weird thing, I'll tell, but it's just the beginning. Oh, there it is, the mess. See you in about an hour"

With these words he left, shaking the ground with the characteristic ungracious gait of the hurried Gyddai; especially that of a bulky elder male like Olenar Gryan.

Part II: A Talk with the ChefEdit

The Gyddai are a species shaped much like giant caterpillars, and like caterpillars they need lots of food. Still, the mess hall was desert, so that Deyre inquired the chef about it while filling his bowel with some delicacies.

The chef was a skinny fellow, despite his profession, and his hands showed a slightly noticeable asymmetry which was quite common among artists and artisans: the left hand was well built, with the tendril-fingers retracted; the right one was more delicate, and the tendrils were long and visible. It was obvious that he former was preferably used for tasks that required strength and the later for those more refined

"Ha, people are too busy today. They asked us to deliver the meal in the laboratories. Have you heard about it, they found some ruins in the underwater caves. It seems there was a civilization on this planet at some point!"

"Oh, so that's what this is about! What do this people think I am, an archaeologist?"

"Ha, you're the detective, right?"

"Yes, I'm from Detective Corps, although our real work is nothing like depicted in most novels"

"You mean you don’t get to investigate stuff?"

"Of course I do. Whenever there's an enigma of hard-to-classify nature, we are called. But it's not as... let’s say, adventurous as you think. Will tell you a secret... well, a half-secret: most of my real work is to classify mysteries, not to solve them. If I see that we're dealing with an inside crime, the police is called. If it's an alien operation, we call the military. If it's a scientific phenomenon, call the experts. I stay 'til the end and help solve the problem, but I have no field of specialty. Broad investigation is my field"

"Have you ever worked as a spy against aliens?"

"Sort of, twice. It's not really espionage because you can't stay among them unnoticed, but I have my ways to investigate when it's needed"

"Sounds like a nice job"

"I love it, as you must love yours"

"Oh, I do! They say culinary is the lowest of arts because it's based on the primitive pleasure of nourishing, but no: good culinary stimulates the brain, no less than an epic fantasy or detailed painting"

At that moment, Deyre's brain was been stimulated by a pudding-like dish and he felt unable to argue the cook's view. He was later told that the recipe included a strange type of native plant which lived in symbiosis with an airborne invertebrate, forming an outlandish being known as a jellycopter.

Interesting planet for sure, and with a dead civilization that was puzzling scientists for some reason.

"Well, it always seems weird before the conclusion" he though

He couldn't guess that this was a case that would lead to an equally weird conclusion

Part III: Meeting the PaquoEdit

Exactly one hour later he was at the chief manager's office door; the location of which had been easy to discover using the base computer. Inside he met with three figures: standing gallantly was manager Gryan himself, accompanied by a funny young man who was introduced as Dr. Berkee. The third figure, the one that caught most attention from Deyre; was a woman, whom Gryan introduced as Neeane Vana, the Base's resident journalist.

Female Gyddai have some distinct traits. Their heads are more elongated than the males' and their eyes larger; their mouths, crests and arms all differed in shape. Perhaps Neeana, like all of her species, would appear disgusting for a humanoid spectator; but for Xephois Deyre she was quite lovely.

"Well" Olenar Gryan started to say "it's about time we brief you on the proper mystery here, Mr Deyre. The whole thing started with some deep water samples brought to the surface. As you probably noticed this base is located in a coastal area of the planet and its structure extends to a secondary underwater building which we seldom use. It was used two weeks ago to launch an unmanned submarine to explore the deep trenches. The samples it brought back were infested with these things"

As he told that, Dr Berkee removed the drape that was covering a large glass box filled with sea water. Inside this aquarium there crawled six slug-like beings; each about a foot in length.

"We called them paquo"

No explanation was needed. The name was that of a stone beast from ancient Gyddai mythology. Very appropriate, for the creatures did appear like they were made out of living stone.

Doctor Berkee assumed the word: "The first thing that impressed us about these, as you yourself certainly noticed, is that they are alive and healthy here at the surface, and that is odd for a deep water species. They come straight from the abyssal zone, Mr Deyre"

Deyre had not noticed that paradox, but there was no reason to correct Berkee.

"But what's most impressive is that, when we got to examine it, we found that it is based on silicon"

Now that was something he could appreciate better. Silicon life only existed in theory as far as Deyre knew.

"And I am not referring to the carapace or other tissues only" the doctor continued, "their very cellular structure; their molecular built is based on silicon. Here, look at the analysis if you don't..."

"Excuse me, wait a minute, doc" Deyre interrupted "I cannot claim expertise but I do know one thing or two about chemistry. Isn't it that silicon bonds break much easier than carbon bonds? And thus life based on it would require an extremely cold temperature to retain integrity"

"Ah, yes, that's the most astounding part of it! The molecular structures that form this creature's body is completely paradoxical, it should not be able to exist, not at all. They totally defy the laws of physics, AND, although studies are far from conclusive, I would say it is not possible for the paquo to have evolved naturally. It is much more machine than animal! And from what I could observe, physics operate differently inside its body than out here in the rest of the universe! Once it ingests food, for instance, the molecular boundaries of its food change instantly without the presence of any digestive enzyme!"

"Ah... How is that even possible?"

"We don’t know! All we know is that these animals are the product of technologies far beyond our understanding."

"And that leads to the mystery we got now" Neeane Vana, the journalist, said "We organized a manned expedition to the ocean abyss and found some interesting cave systems. Inside them we found..."

"A dead alien civilization" Deyre completed

"Yes, so you heard already"

"Is it completely dead?"

"Beyond doubt, we detected nothing that could indicate active technology, and saw no living creatures except for the paquo."

"Then it's not my work. You should have called an archaeologist"

"But they wouldn't keep quiet. Detectives on the other hand know how to deal with these things. For now, this is a secret matter; Gryan has forbidden any reports to leave the base."

Deyre was about to ask the journalist what she was doing there then, but refrained from doing so.

"If Berkee's analysis is right" said Gryan "we are dealing with technologies that could be revolutionary on many fields, including military. Just imagine... being able to dismantle physics, in a confined area of space; that would handle any possible opponent. We want to know more about it, Mr Deyre, and our own people have been investigating non-stop since the discovery. We thought bringing you here could be useful."

Deyre was a guy well used to taking quick decisions and acting upon them. It only took him a few seconds to weight down matters and decide that this could turn out to be an important assignment after all.

"Well, you hired me, there must be something I can do to help. May I suggest another expedition to the underwater city?"

"Already prepared. You can take the submarine with Neeane and Berkee right now if you're ready"

"That, Mr Gryan, I always am"

Part IV: The Abyssal CavesEdit

Gyddai eyes are not very good at detecting the color blue. For the four passengers of the submarine, the ocean was already black even before descending to the deep abyssal zone. The vehicle's light beams illuminated the way, however, revealing a spectacle of unearthly lifeforms dancing along the currents in their strange body movements.

The place they were aiming contained even eerier sights. About six kilometers in depth they saw what appeared to be the ocean floor; but was actually the abode of a large underwater cavern; a grand geological formation, and quite paradoxical to find one at this depth. The pilot, Garren, maneuvered the submarine skillfully, passing through the most convenient stone entrance.

The city was much greater a view than Deyre would have expected. Weirdly-shaped buildings dominated the scape, along with scraps of what could have been pod-like vehicles. Some installations were in ruins, others were almost intact; but all showed the unmistakable signs of perhaps millennia of abandonment and even from inside the submarine it was possible to feel the utter solitude and bizarreness of the scenario. Covering the ruins there were large colonies of sessile things which the paquo could be seen grazing on.

Deyre, Vana, Dr. Berkee and Garren left the submarine dressed in sophisticated diving suits, able to withstand the great coldness and pressure; and equipped with broad-ranging lanterns.

"Abyssal caves" said Deyre "there's something I never heard of before. Have you got a geology expert here?"

"I'm afraid not" said Vana "geology is one of those much underrated fields"

"I say that's because it has no practical application my dear" commented Garren

"No military application you mean. It's very useful for colony planning, and mining operations are the most important of industry activities" She corrected him

"Well, I suppose you're right. Population grows, mining iron becomes a great concern. But in this case, who cares how these caves came to be? All we need to know is, they're here"

While they discussed, Dr Berkee called Deyre and asked him his opinion so far. He answered slowly, looking around while he talked as if searching for something

"My opinion is that we need to find out two things if we can: one is how this place was built; and the other is how it was abandoned. Of course, when I say 'how' I also mean 'when' and 'why' and 'by whom'. And then we should try to pick up as much technology as we can and leave it in your secondary base"

"The secondary? Why not bring it to the main place, do you fear these things might be dangerous, Mr Deyre?"

"You never know what to expect when dealing with the unknown..."

After stating this ridiculous redundancy he stopped, as if having located something. The other asked him what was that and Deyre pointed at one of the buildings, excitingly telling that it was a library. Vana and Garren approached too

"Well, sure it's a library, that's where we got material to translate those writings. But how did you know that?" asked Berkee

"Wild guess, actually. Square building, no windows; could be a research facility or a factory but the decorative ornaments suggest something more communal than that. So you've translated the language? What have you found out so far?"

"Nothing much useful yet. There are many science books, which are being studied, and they seem to have a somewhat different set of physic laws. There are some weird scripts that appear to be fiction but we cannot even say for sure if it’s meant to be prose or poetry."

Deyre pondered on the subject for a mere instance before his next decision

"We need to go to the central building of the city"

Vana showed the map she had previously made of the area and they soon located what appeared to be the central structure

"From what we could observe" said Vana "this was a university. It has what appears to have been research facilities, leisure areas, dormitories and transporter centers"

"Great" said Deyre "but it's not a university. Let's go there"

They entered the construction and Deyre's attention was brought by a large, elaborate ring-shaped structure at the center of a circular area. He asked if they knew what it was. Vana answered that to her it seemed like a machine, while Berkee added that it could be simply an abstract sculpture.

"I see some scripts here. Have you translated these?"

"Yes" said Berkee "Three words. The first one means 'passageway' or 'route'; the others appear to be names of places. The computers like to match them with words from alien mythology. They are translating this as Emenata-Renadon Route"

"What's Emenata? ...And what's Renadon?" asked Deyre distractedly

Vana provided one of the answers: "Don't know about Renadon, but Emenata is an ancient word used by many races to denote either all-that-is or the spectrum of creation which we are allowed to inhabit; as opposed to the residences of the gods, this sort of thing, you know"

"Wow, I didn't know you were such an expert"

"I find mythology to be a fascinating study"

"Hey" said Garren "You were right about it being a machine, Neeane, look: it's been activated somehow"

Indeed the mechanism was starting to move, shake, and emit strange lights. The expedition members withdrew a little and watched as, for several seconds, the thing appeared to be doing no more than a cheesy lightshow. The light became so strong, Deyre wished it was possible to turn out the lantern of his suit while wearing it; but who could ever have though that light would ever not be necessary at seven kilometers below the sea??

"Why has it started working? Why, all of a sudden?" asked Garren helplessly

"Perhaps our radio interfered with its circuits accidentally. Or else..." started Berkee

"Doctor, if you don't know something, just say so. It's better than offering the first idea that pops in your head"

"Alright I don't know"

Just when they started to approach the ring mechanism again, something else happened. A large, hideous beast appeared out of nothing at the center of the mechanism, holding what appeared to be an energy pistol.

Part V: Blast the BeastEdit

The beast was roughly two and a half meters tall; with an appearance reminiscent of a lobster, an ape and a paquo all at once. It stared at the Gyddai for a mere instance; just enough to give them time to grab their own weapons from the suits; and for one second both sides faced each other as if wondering who would shoot first.

No doubt the beast offered to go first; shooting its energy ray in Garren's direction and nearly hitting him. If it weren't for his quick reflex, the pilot would have been disintegrated.

What followed was a shooting display well worthy of a Western; if it wasn't for being set in a weird underwater dead town and performed by aliens of course. The beast was hit more than once, but appeared unharmed.

Meanwhile Deyre was alternating his target preference between the beast and the ring structure it had materialized in, and appeared to be doing some damage to the later, much to the beast's despair.

Seeing that it was distracted, Neeane Vana started to grab the nearby paquos and throw them at the invader. Deyre stared confusedly, wondering if she had ran out of ammunition; but this proved not to be the case when she shot the creature again, hitting it through a paquo and resulting in a great explosion.

"What in the name of Bor?!" asked Garren

"The gate machine is destroyed" noticed Berkee

"Good shot" congratulated Deyre

Vana smiled

Part VI: Covering UpEdit

Deyre and the others were back to the Lenemo Base, the detective presenting his report to Manager Olenar Gryan, who listened with interest.

"Well, it is clear that the silicon beast was sapient and probably a member of the species that originally bred the paquo. For whatever reason their settlements here on Emenata were long abandoned. But perhaps our activities down there did catch their attention; at least that of that individual who crossed the gate to attack us. Judging by the apparent technological level of the silicon things, I would even say it was probably a bless that the portal has been destroyed"

"So you folks killed the creature?"

"Yes, Miss Vana did some quick thinking there. She realized the creature was coming from a different universe, and could only survive here by having some sort of physics barrier. Something that keeps its universe in and ours out. In some ways, you could say it's a most advanced parallel of our diving suits"

"I see" said the manager before turning to Vana "and how did you know that blasting the paquo could open a hole on the creature’s protective suit?"

"Wild guess" she said, smiling in Deyre's direction "the paquo is the only thing we know that can keep different physics inside and outside itself. I thought it could be worth a try."

"Fantastic! It only saddens me to say that this whole matter will have to remain secret indefinitely"

Deyre had already expected that, but Dr Berkee was surprised

"What?" he asked.

"The government decided to shut down the entire base and abandon Koje. We cannot risk drawing much attention to this place now"

"But this is insane, you're not going to study these things?!"

"We will of course, but not here. We must proceed somewhere else. The government has many operation areas reserved for more secret matters. You see, the story here is getting out of control already. Some people let the press know about the paquo and, thank goodness, it is being taken by the media as just a rumor, but we must cover up while we can. I trust that you Deyre will keep quiet about what happened here. This applies to the rest of us, of course. And Miss Vana, as one last assignment, I would like you to write a report denying the existence of the paquos and everything else"

"Ah, with all due respect, manager, I'd rather not"

"You know false reports are perfectly acceptable in the sake of galactic security!"

"Still, I won't do so"

Despite a slightly perceptible gesture of anger the manager kept calm and said: "Alright, if it's your decision. I cannot give orders anymore, now that we are being closed down. But understand that any hint about these matters will be seen as an illegal act of no-cooperation and going against interests of the government. You can all go"

After they left, Gryan turned to Garren and said

"Write the report, sign her name on it. And tell the guys to keep an eye on these two"

"Yes, manager"

---

After eating together at the mess hall; Deyre offered Vana a ride in his ship

"There's enough space for sure, and it's quite comfortable. I can take you to any planet you want. Well, if you want, surely"

"That would be very kind of you"

"Great! I mean, it will be nice having someone else to talk to rather than writing poetry"

"Oh, but I greatly enjoy poetry. Perhaps you could show me some of your poems later?"

Deyre's smile slowly transformed into an anxious face as he realized he would have to come up with a good excuse quickly to deny that wish. And for now, he couldn’t find any...

EpilogueEdit

One year later:

A Gyddai cargo disguised as an alien ship landed on planet Koje to deliver supplies. Thirty seven men still worked secretly in the base supposedly shut down by the government. It had taken these men lots of time studying the devices of the dead city, before they succeeded with the communication attempts

With two Gyddai technicians operating the controls, the face of a silicon beast finally showed up on the screen of a peculiar contraption. Along the shadowy corridors came the figure of Manager Gryan, speaking the language he had managed to learn quite fluently in the last months

"In the name of the Gyddai Government" he said in the idiom of the Renadon beast "I would be interested to discuss a political alliance..."

To be continued...

...Eventually

CreditsEdit

Story by User:BlueFrackle

Mentions:
Salsene by User:Pinguinus,
Elisri by User:Holbenilord,
Auctor by User:Yuy168,
Emenata by User:InfiniteCreator,

Set in the Obeidon Multiverse created by InfiniteCreator

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