Amber Nebula Campaign Log

2. Shadows of Forgotten Aliens


29 April, 2775. 16:55 UTC. Log entry by Iki Piki.

After scanning the net for potentially profitable cargoes to purchase on Lyrane, we have come to the conclusion that the most lucrative course of action is to forgo new cargo for the time being and offer the services of ourselves and the Legacy to a certain Professor Byron Smythe. Prof. Smythe is leading an archaeological expedition to examine some Precursor ruins on the planet Chikrel, some 4.92 parsecs from Lyrane. He needs return transport, and some willing hands for exploration assistance.

16:57 UTC. Computer query by Serron.

Welcome to Lyrane-Net

Please provide professional information on Professor Byron Smythe.

Searching...

Professor Byron Smythe, tenured at the University of Sennier since 2757, head of xenoarchaeology department since 2771. Author of several respected papers on xenoarchaeology, as well as the popular multimedia works Shadows of Forgotten Aliens and The Prehistory of Human Space. Leader of many archaeological expeditions to Precursor ruins on various planets. Member of the Yandis Academy of Sciences, including a term as President from 2772-2773.

Any available personal information?

Never married. No dependents. Clear legal record. Independently wealthy.

Hold. Repeat last sentence.

Independently wealthy.

Hmmm. What information do you have on the planet Chikrel?

Searching...

Chikrel, third planet in the Barnok star system (+4.371, -4.372, +5.022). Uninhabited. Thick carbon dioxide atmosphere and high gravity. Several Precursor ruin sites. Native life restricted to photosynthetic lichen-like growths and reducing microbes and fungus-like organisms.

20:32 UTC. Sunrise +1:38 local time. Vidphone call record.

Prof. Smythe: Hello? Yes?

Serron: Professor Smythe? We're calling about your ad for transport and support for an expedition to Chikrel.

Prof. Smythe: Ah, yes. You have a ship we can use?

Serron: Yes, a small cargo vessel, the Legacy. We have four crew and berthing for four others, as well as 56 cubic metres of cargo space.

Prof. Smythe: That should be plenty of room. We have three people, including myself, plus quite a bit of gear, but most of it is loaded on to two small hovercraft. They should fit into your cargo space without any trouble.

Serron: That sounds fine. Now, if we could discuss the matter of payment?

Prof. Smythe: Certainly. I can credit your account with the money before departure, and of course I'll arrange for the right amount of fuel to be loaded on to your ship as well. You use antimatter?

Serron: Yes, but we were just a little concerned that the fee quoted might not cover our other operating costs and also leave us a reasonable amount of profit.

Prof. Smythe: Well, I'm afraid my hands are tied a little with respect to cash.

Serron: I was under the impression that you were financing this expedition personally.

Prof. Smythe: Certainly, but I don't exactly have spare cash to throw about. I could, however, arrange some additional antimatter to be loaded for you, since the university manufactures its own and I can recquisition it fairly easily.

Serron: That sounds good. Our calculations show the return trip should take just over 3.5 grams of antimatter. If you could arrange twice that amount, so we have plenty spare in case of an astrogation problem, then I'm sure we can reach an agreement.

Prof. Smythe: Okay, seven grams it is. Can I arrange loading of that and our supplies for today?

Serron: Sure. The ship is the Legacy, docked at Sennier Spaceport. We can leave as soon as you have your equipment and personnel on board.

30 April, 2775. 12:14 UTC. Log entry by Spanners.

We have on board Prof. Smythe, plus his Ph.D. student Melissa Green, and a field assistant named Sam Weston. The agreed 7 grams of antimatter has been loaded, as well as several tons of expedition supplies, mostly loaded on to two hovercraft in the cargo hold. All cargo is secure and we are ready to leave.

Since we are not carrying commercial cargo, we have invested our capital in the short term money market on Lyrane, to help offset the interest accruing on our original Earth$250,000 loan. Serron has managed to sell the antique desk left by Dr Rutherford and, after taking a seller's commission for himself, has raised Earth$9000 for company funds.

Ogier has completed the astrogation calculations - we have a three and a half day trip to Chikrel.

4 May, 2775. 01:03 UTC. Log entry by Ogier.

After an uneventful flight, we are ready to skew out of hyperspace and make final approach to Chikrel. Skewing now...

Realspace fix indicates we are on course, approximately 3 hours out of orbital re-entry.

04:32 UTC. Log entry by Iki Piki.

We have landed on a flat plain about 30 kilometres from the alien ruins which Prof. Smythe wishes to investigate. The gravity is noticeably high, and the external atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide at about 1.2 atmospheres pressure. We will need respirators to breathe. The expedition equipment includes plenty of air.

We are about to unload the hovercraft and drive over to the ruin site. We've arrived soon after sunrise, and the sun won't set for another 46 hours, so we have plenty of time to explore before it gets dark.

06:17 UTC. Field Log entry by Ogier.

Professor Smythe has indicated our initial object of investigation is to be a cylindrical tower, 315 metres high and 116 in diameter, across the river from the ruins of the main alien settlement. The surface is smooth metal and apparently free of any openings or hatches. After a preliminary scouting around the base, we have determined with an ultrasound probe that a section in the northern side has a hollow space behind it. Sam Weston is using laser cutting gear to open a doorway for us to enter the cylinder.

06:21 UTC. Field Log entry by Iki Piki.

As a record of the surroundings, I note that the ground surface appears a rusty red colour. Some small patches of native fungal life forms are visible on the rocks, but these are small vegetative growths which should pose no hazard. The main problems are the heavy gravity and maintaining our oxygen supplies through the use of our masks, plus whatever we may encounter within this Precursor artefact.

06:58 UTC. Field Log entry by Serron.

We have penetrated into a set of corridors and rooms inside the cylinder. Iki Piki, myself, and Prof. Smythe and his assistants have scouted out the ground floor, leaving Spanners and Ogier outside guarding the hovercraft.

A large circular chamber at the centre of the ground floor has a vertical shaft, 12 metres wide, extending upwards. The laser rangefinder indicates that it rises to within a metre or so of the roof. We speculate that this may have been some sort of lift shaft, although no mechanisms or moving parts can be seen.

The walls, floors and ceilings everywhere are smooth metal. There are no doors that we can detect. The ceiling glows with a soft, even light, obviously artificially generated, but we see no evidence of switches or any means to turn it on or off. Of the half dozen or so smaller chambers arranged around the central one, the southernmost appears to be an audience chamber or throne room. It has a metallic seat raised on a platform in the centre, with what looks like moulded seating for some sort of three-legged creature. There are buttons on the armrests, but when I tried pressing some of them nothing seemed to happen.

We've also found a cube of polished metal in one room. It seems inert, and remained so when I tried putting my fingers into the various depressions and patterns on each face. Obviously we're taking it back for later analysis.

In another room we found a 20 centimetre hole in the floor. The rangefinder couldn't get a reading on the far end, so we presume the shaft goes down a long way into the planet.

07:03 UTC. Radio communication log.

Spanners: Hey guys, we've got a visual on a moving object, looks like some sort of animal out here. Approaching our position rapidly.

Prof. Smythe: Excellent! Can you tell me what it looks like?

Serron: Hang on, we'll be right there.

Ogier: It looks like a shuffling blob of fungus, galloping on flaps of skin along the bottom edge. It has four tentacles on top.

Spanners: It'll be on us in a few seconds, max!

[Sounds of running]

Serron: We're on our way!

Sam Weston: Protect the hovercraft!

Spanners: I'm moving away, trying to keep the hovercraft between it and myself. I can hear some sort of scream or roar in the ultrasonic range. The tentacles are flailing around rapidly... they have some sort of claw at the end... Ogier!

Ogier: Aaaarrrggghhhh!!!

[Sound of blaster fire - six shots]

Spanners: It got him! Sliced his leg open! He was trying to climb into the hovercraft. I shot it... it looks dead.

07:19 UTC. Field Log entry by Iki Piki.

We have attended to Ogier's wounds. He will have trouble walking until we can get him back to the automed in the ship. However, he insists on continuing the exploration of the tower, although this time along with the interior exploration party.

We have now parked the hovercraft inside the cylinder entrance and decided it will be safer for all of us to explore together. Serron has souvenired a claw off the dead creature, which appears to be some sort of fungal mass with only rudimentary musculature and fibrous connective tissue. No bones or internal organs are evident.

In order to continue our exploration, we have unpacked the magnetic climbing conveyers carried in Prof. Smythe's expedition gear. We are one conveyer short, but Ogier requires assistance anyway so will ride with Serron. These devices attach to the wall and will carry us upwards by means of a magnetised tractor tread. Ingenious.

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