What does Team 9 discover through the gateway? WC:2267, Sci-Fi Contest Entry
Portal Team 9: A New World
here are a half-dozen figures seated on a couch. On the large vid-screen in front of them is a human male and female android. The six people watch in rapt silence.
He sighs, speaking softly, his voice trailing into silence, "We never expected - "
The android answers, its voice perfectly modulated, "We know."
“I don’t know how you can watch that drivel, Jassle,” the tall, pretty troll says from the doorway.
“Up yours, Pik. It’s a butt-load better than that Uptown Manor soap opera crap you and Lizza watch,” Jassle replies with a toothy smile from the couch in the common room before continuing. “At least this is about the future not some archaic society of plutocrats.” The vid-screen fades to black and the credit scroll by with the theme music for the show playing.
“Hey! That’s over, right? It’s time for some ‘rasslin!” a huge troll says, pushing past Pik into the room and throwing himself on to the couch, squeezing Jassle into the armrest.
“Yeah, Uri, go ahead and change it. My shift is starting in 10 anyways,” Jassle says, prying himself off the couch.
“How’s the tooth?” Pik asks as they step into the hallway and turn left.
“It’s still loose, damn it. The gobbie dentist, whats-her-face, said it should reseat and firm up, the root isn’t damaged.”
“Gammick. Yeah, she knows her stuff. You are ugly enough with losing a lower fang.”
“Why thanks, Pik. I’d almost think you were sweet on me,” Jassle looks up at the taller troll, batting his eyes.
Pik blushes and looks away quickly. She is 12cm taller than Jassle with light green skin and pale green eyes; in contrasts to Jassle’s deep forest green skin and green-almost-black eyes. Where he is thick and squat, 5cm shy of 2m; she is long and lean, at 2.2m and 100kg. He weighs at least 10 kg more than she does.
Three dwarves and a hand-full of goblins push past them into the common room, yelling and hooting at each other. The two troll flatten themselves against the side of the hallway as more people squeeze past into the common room.
“I can not believe wrestling is that popular,” Jassle says as they begin walking. “You’d think with all the fighting we are doing that they’d want something else to watch.”
“I think it works as a stress or tension release. They know it’s not real since the same guys/gals get the absolute crap beat out of them but show up the next week looking fine. So it’s a world where the good guys win but have to fight hard for it.”
Jassle looks at her sideways, then says, “You’ve put a bit of thought into this.”
Pik blushes again.
“This is not the first time I’ve been impressed with your brains,” Jassle says and then adds. “You are far smarter than anyone here except, maybe, the CO. I can’t imagine what you did to get assigned to this ass-end of nowhere, but I am thankful for it every time we go out.”
Pik blushes even more as they turn into a larger more crowded hallway. Threading the crowd they arrive at Ready Room 6 and join 4 other people around a long table in the middle. There is a short groll (no more than 4 meters tall), a long, thin human with a terrible scar running from his left eye to the bottom of his right ear, a troll-human breed with big hands and a beautiful dwarf-human breed standing around, talking quietly.
“Any news about team 1?” A dwarf-human asks out loud. She is just over a meter tall, clean shaven with long arms.
“Last I heard they sent a second rescue-recovery team in, but that was 3 days back. No idea what the latest is,” answered the scarred human.
The troll-human breed shudders and says, “An arachne-world. I am so bloody glad we didn’t get that assignment.”
A chime sounds and the troll-human breed says “OK, let's get roll call over with.” He turns to the table, places his hand on the surface and says “Poontu Kla: Sergeant Healy acting lead of Exploration Team 9, weekly squad meeting, activate roll call protocol.”
A mechanical sounding voice responds, “Acknowledged. Begin.”
“Corporal Jassle Jassle?” Sergeant Healy asks.
“Present,” Jassle answers.
“Lance Corporal Lizza Threa Ursol?”
“Aye,” The dwarf-human answers.
“Lance Corporal Pikol Tyrolin?”
“Present,” Pik responds.
“Private First Class Trace Yu?”
“Here,” The human says.
“Private First Class Kley?”
“Ya,” The groll grunts.
“End roll call protocol,” Sergeant Healy says.
At that moment a door in the back of the room opens and a tall, lean handsome elf enters. His darkly handsome face is marred by an eye-patch with a poorly healed scar just below the eye on the cheek. The group come to attention and all eyes are on the arrival.
“Commander Len tan Gorelen, has arrived,” Sergeant Healy says.
A mechanical sounding voice responds, “Acknowledged.”
“Portal Team 9, relax. You are all here. That is good,” the commander says in short bitten off sentences.
He gestures at the table and in the center an image formed. It showed a facility with a large open area at one end. There are tubes and cables attached to a ring in the floor at the center of that open area. Around the sides of the room are machines, altars, diagrams, giant flasks suspended from the ceiling and lots of runes and markings on everything.
“The Magi-scientists have made a break-through. They’ve found a new world. All probes report it supports life. You have been chosen to be the first survey team through.”
“Beg pardon, sir. We are down two and Staff Sergeant Hanal. That seems a little undermanned for new world exploration,” Sergeant Healy comments.
“Command acknowledges what you have said,” the Commander answers then continues. “However the process for opening the gate has begun.” He lowers his voice and adds. “Because no one communicates around here.”
There follows a quick show of frustration his face before it returns to impassive and he says, “And you are the only team available. Normally, in this situation, down three, we would assign a new staff and a couple of recruits to fill in but we are out of those, also.”
He pauses looking at the table top then says in a low voice, “Things are strained with the Ministry of Resources right now. No doubt politics as usual. Anyway, Sergeant Healy, this is going to be your team for the foreseeable future. Staff Sergeant Hanal will be reassigned once his current … difficulties are over. You will be getting two new recruits but they are not out of B-camp yet. They are waiting to fit you out in deployment room 15. After that report to chamber Omega-2. This is a new unknown world. I don’t have the budget to train an entire new team, so don’t get yourselves killed. Proceed with all due caution.”
In unison, they say, “Yes, sir.” The officer turns on his heel and leaves the room.
“Well team, we have just been handed a plum assignment. Yes sir! A brand new world to survey with an undermanned team and none of us with new world experience,” Sergeant Healy says looking at each member of his team, he adds. “This is a good team, we will not fail. As the Commander said lets get our asses over to deployment room 15.”
Everyone starts moving to the exit. The Sergeant puts a hand on Jassle’s shoulder and says in a low voice, “Wait up a bit.”
The rest of the team files out while Jassle steps over to the Sergeant.
“Is Pik as smart as I think?” The Sergeant asks.
“She is that and more. Everytime we go out I am thankful to Yitri, Balon and Husite that she is on our team,” Jassle says then adds. “Still, I have no clue why she is here. She seems to sincerely want to be here and won’t talk about home or where she came from.”
“This is the ass-end of nowhere and top freaking secret. You only get here if you screw up so much they want you to die or you make too big a name for yourself and they want you to die,” the Sergeant pauses, shrugs and ends with. “Lets go.”
The two men headed out of the ready room.
In the large room, Omega-2, Team 9 in full gear, stand in the center ring. Sergeant and PFC Kley are in the center facing opposite directions, the others are at cardinal compass points, also facing outward. Between Kley and Healy in the very center of the ring is a large pile of equipment on carts.
“All siphon loops in lockdown,” a techno-mage calls out as he stands at an altar and touches a rune carved into it’s surface.
“Quadrature oriented and locked,” another techno-mage calls out as she taps a code into a keyboard on the opposite side of the room, staring into a display.
“Tango linear 5,” a voice calls out.
“Locked,” the first techno-mage calls out touching another rune.
“Tango linear 4,” the voice calls out, faster now
“Locked,” the same techno-mage responds just as quickly, touching runes.
They run through Tango Linear 3, 2, and 1 quickly. Each time the ring begins to glow brighter and brighter.
There is a long pause and the voice intones, “Open power transition relays.”
The second techno-mage pulls a lever and presses a green, glowing button. The ring flashes brightly while there is a very loud pop sound.
Team 9 sees the laboratory fade into greyness then there is a moment of disorientation and they are standing alone in the laboratory, everything is dark. They don’t move, each turns on their headlamp and sweeps the area keeping their weapon trained outward.
“Well, crap, this can’t be good. Where’d everybody go?” Sergeant Healy asks, his voice echoing in the quiet room.
After a few minutes of scanning Jassle says, “This ain’t our lab.” He plays his headlamp on the wall above a set of double doors. Above the door is a phrase, in two lines: “Kein sacrafice ist zu groß für das Vaterland” with red squares on either end. The red squares each have a white circle in the center with a black swastika in it.
“Well that’s … different? OK, standard protocol: Pik, Trace, take a look at this equipment in here. Jassle, Lizza you are on Recon. Keep in radio distance. You encounter anything even remotely hostile you hustle back here. Kley, lets get this stuff off the platform.”
Jassle and Lizza move to either side of the door looking down the hallway.
“Clear,” Lizza says, looking out the door then glancing at Jassle.
“I see a probe. It’s down and 8 meters. No hostiles visible,” Jassle replies, then steps out into the hallway. Lizza follows.
They cautiously approach the downed probe. It is a 1m in diameter circular disk with a large propeller in the center and three much smaller propellers forming an equilateral triangle around the large one. Jassle stands with his back against the wall, trying to look both ways at once, while Lizza checks out the probe.
After a few minutes she says, “Looks like the batteries are dead. I don’t see any other damage.”
“Sarge, Jassle. Got a standard 7 probe down in the hallway, right side. We are continuing on.”
Jassle and Lizza work their way down the hallway.
Sergeant Healy sends PFC Kley to retrieve the probe. He returns and puts it next to a tall console.
“Sarge this looks a similar to some of the stuff our mage-scientists created but,” Pik starts then stops, looking at Trace.
Sergeant Healy joins them at a console, studies it for a moment, shrugs then looks questioning at them.
“It’s all tech. No sorcery,” Trace says.
“Yeah. I’ve been told that a tech solution requires an enormous amount of power to open the portal. We get around that by using sorcery. These guys must have found a different way.”
“Got the probe up,” Kley says.
The trio migrates over to the probe and look at the console it is plugged into. The screen is broken up into smaller windows surrounding the main one. The main one is displaying the room they are in from about 3 meters up. It moves to the doorway and out into the hallway. The recording shows it turning left and traveling through the compound. It is laid out very similar to their home compound but it seems to be abandoned. Every wall has at least one of the red squares on it. Many have phrases written around them. Eventually they see the hallway outside of the room they are in and then the power fades out.
“Whoever they were they abandoned this place,” Pik says.
“The place is empty,” Jassle says as he and Lizza reenter the laboratory.
“Yeah, we reviewed the probes record. Anything interesting?” Sergeant Healy asks.
“There are some vehicles outside with fuel. They operate a little weirdly but seem serviceable. No bodies, no weapons, no food in the few places we checked. There are a lot of store rooms. More than we have, I think,” Jassle replies.
Pik joins them and says, “We figured out that sorcery doesn’t work here. Trace tried a few simple spells and got nothing.”
That news sinks in for a few moments then Lizza says brightly, “That means that true Elves, Griphons, Hazans, Djins and Shananks can’t live here! Sweet! When can we move in?”