Jade Imperium - First Contact

Gatac 2007-05-14 17:21:50
Hugh shakes his head.

"No additional personnel. If we're stuck here, then by God, we won't pull anyone down with us. That said, if I can wrangle some good cameras out of Command, we could send footage back through the gate and get your staff on Earth to help us."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2007-05-14 18:42:54
Mission Time 01:09:00

The Gate activates with its ubiquitous whumpf and your radios crackle.

*Mesas Negras to away team, how are the negotiations go- is that them?* You realize that Command can see the manta-ship through the Gate portal.

And thus begins the situation report that spans the entirety of three 5:28 windows across 90 minutes. Mesas Negras starts sending equipment through with the fourth portal, but makes it very clear that they aren't sending any more people through, not if it's a one-way trip.

Mission Time 01:11:00

It's the middle of your second rainy night on Whiirr (Tupolev's been referring to it as such for hours now) and what should be lunchtime on Earth. The Delta team starts assembling sandbag walls, a second tent, camp showers and toilets, and more Claymores on the perimeter.

The Others' ship oversees it all silently but for its steady droning hum. Samal Akor and his Truthseekers have not exited the vehicle in some time.

Max and Andy go into "nerd fugue", ignoring or sharply dismissing anyone attempting to disturb their work. The only people they talk to are Dr. Raines and his staff back on Earth. Every 30 minutes they transmit their data back to be run through the Pit's servers.

Mission Time 01:19:00

Late morning on your second Whiirr-day sees a host of tired Delta operators and a lavish dinner - or breakfast, depending on whose time you're going off of. KFC, pizza, coolers full of Gatorade, even some mess hall salisbury steak. The "crash site" could now actually be called a "base camp". Stanhill's sending up a brand new Cypher UAV under orders from Command. It should prove easier to spot those avians in the daylight.

Indeed it does - and that's when you get your first demonstration of the Other's hardware.

Luis sends the UAV up and a minute or so later he notices one of the metal spheres following maybe 10 meters above and behind it. It's not doing anything to interfere with the Cypher's flight path, so Luis lets it go. Besides, Greene knocked on the manta-ship's hatch a few times during the night to no avail (and got put on toilet/shower duty by Taylor for it). No use looking for an operator.

Apparently the large avian predators hunt day or night, because sure enough one of the flared-tail monsters comes at the Cypher, diving down out of the sun!

From the ground, the UAV and its little sidekick are just glints of sunlight; the predator, a tiny black "V" shape. On the laptop viewscreen, however, the metal sphere turns towards the avian without breaking formation. There's a high-pitched buzzsaw whine and the predator's body is ripped apart from 20 meters out. It looks like it just evaporates. Hairy feathers and gobbets of still-twitching flesh sprinkle the jungle canopy. One wing, still mostly intact, spirals down out of sight.

Mission Time 02:03:00

Late afternoon, Whiirr time. Drs. Kilgore and Tupolev are ordered to get some sleep. They haven't cracked the "fucking Da Vinci Code" as Dietrich puts it, but they have discovered some additional information during their tests with Dr. Raines' team.

The Gateway won't engage a portal if the center of ring is blocked by enough material. "Enough material" is loosely defined at this point, but appears to be the case if over half of the portal space would be occluded. Objects passed through the portal won't transport if they would appear inside another object of sufficient mass. The Gateway itself appears able to make the distinction between "air" and "Humvee" easily enough.

Max makes a connection before he hits the sack. Obviously the Others knew about this Gate, and they seem to have tried a variety of codes. Given the difficulties in transporting the Gates themselves; i.e., one Gate can't fit through another since they're the same size, they probably abandoned the Gateways here. Three were damaged, and the fourth one seemed inoperative. The Earth gate was found buried in Antarctic ice. That would definitely stop a portal.

It's possible they tried to contact us decades or even centuries before, and they couldn't because our Gate was buried. Problem is, Max thinks, is that it doesn't provide an answer. They'd probably have even MORE records to sift through, and that's ignoring the twin problems of a) different languages and b) REALLY different data systems.

Max sleeps lightly, dreaming of chrome-armored aliens with the face of Elvis Presley. They chase him, Kitty, and One-eye (who opts for Chewbacca sounds over its native language) through the Death Star.

The "terraforming" you accomplish in building the base camp seems to keep the indigenous wildlife at bay, but the time difference is starting to mess with people's perceptions. Angel sees Mellish literally fall asleep on his feet for a moment. Taylor's been extra irritable, acting more and more like a sergeant saddled with a bunch of new recruits rather than Delta. The slightest slip-up gets a tongue-lashing from the SFC. Riviera's never where people can SEE him, let alone see him make mistakes. Semo's so by-the-book he could chew out Taylor if the man didn't outrank him, but Luis gets the worst of it. He's got three specialties, plus his normal duties. The guy is just overworked.

Dr. Cavanaugh gets to dissect her toucan sam on-site, and spends most of her time talking into her tape recorders and cameras. She theorizes that they're flock/herd animals and judging from their brains, may be as smart as dogs or monkeys.

Mission Time 02:11:00

Whiirr's twin moons are white marbles against a light blue sky on your third Whiirr dawn. Everyone's internal schedules finally seem to match up with the local environment. It feels like morning again, and with that feeling comes a hearty meal from Mesas Negras. Sausage, eggs, bacon, cereal, coffee, and some Red Bull and Vault for the nerd herd.

*I just want to apologize, Max,* Dr. Raines radios. *We all thought that the code that activated the Gate was just an on switch, and once active the glyphs could feed it commands. Apparently it's more like a telephone. Something will work - it just has to. Just on a hunch, let's keep the first few glyphs the same today and cycle through the patterns that include them. Astronomically speaking, your planet is ONLY 30 light-years from us. Maybe there's something in the code to indicate proximity.*

"Well...," Kitty says into her mic, idly chewing her toast. "Proximity or not, what happens if we get a working code and it doesn't even lead to Earth? What if we find another planet after this one?"
fanchergw 2007-05-14 18:45:38
Semo has to move out of his shady spot to hear the captain clearly. Looks like they're settling in for the long haul. Damn.

Only thing he wants besides plenty of food and water is his iPod and associated SoundDock from his room back on base. 8gig of tunes can keep him happy for a long time. He'll bring it up when his shift on perimeter ends.
Gatac 2007-05-14 19:06:55
Hugh weighs in on the discussion.

"If we find other planet codes, we take notes for later use and send them to Command, but we don't go there. First off, those codes may even depend on which gate you're dialing from, and that would strand us another step removed from Earth. Second, we've got a good, solid setup here. Enough research materials for years. I don't see a reason to make a grand tour of the universe when we've got a whole alien planet to explore here. Third...our primary mission is to get back to Earth. Everything else is a distraction."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2007-05-14 22:22:38
Mission Time 02:20:00

The blue sky turns dark gray as the day progresses. A stiff breeze picks up by late afternoon, with scattered showers drizzling over base camp. The weather is reflected in Tupolev's mood as Dr. Raines' suggestions bear bitter fruit, culminating with Andy tossing his Toughbook through the Gateway during one of the 5-minute portals. It sails right through the portal and lands with a clatter in the alien wreckage behind the ancient artifact.

"Who cares if it's broken?! They'll send me another one! They can't send me HOME, but they'll send me another computer! Hell, Raines, why don't you just send us some lumber and some concrete and some bulldozers? We'll build a ski lodge, because that's more feasible than this... this... needle in a goddamn haystack!"

Dr. Kilgore continues without Tupolev for a few more hours, adjusting his algorithms based on anything and everything he can think of: the readouts on that 15-pound Widget Akor gave him, the recordings of the Whiirr longhouse runes, the markings on the Chosen, everything. Max has narrowed down the list considerably, but there's still no Gateflash.

Mission Time 03:04:16

There's no moon this night. Thick, smoggy clouds dance across the sky as a humid wind blows through the camp. Semo's off perimeter, nodding his head to his iPod. Dietrich's catching up on the latest Harry Potter book ("Finally decided to see what my daughter was fussin' about," he says if needled). Max is still running combinations from his Toughbook to the Gateway.

Suddenly there's a whumpf and a golden flash from the Gateway. Max actually falls down, he's so surprised. Tupolev and Cavanaugh come running, doing double-takes at their watches and then at the portal that hangs before you, shimmering in the black alien night.

You see the Pit, the darkened command room that looks down into the Pit, the blast doors, the scattered snack wrappers from the science teams.

"Did you do that? Is that ours!?" shouts Andy.

*Mesas Negras to away team, report! Our Gate just lit up halfway through its charge time... what's your status!?*