The group stood there for a moment, a quiet dripping sound coming from the environment suits. Niarith finally spoke. “The Intigrelt Facility? What uh, is that?” Her voice, coming through the suit’s speaker, echoed loudly through the airlock.
The doctor smiled widely “The Intigrelt Facility is a top of the line research facility! Dedicated to the study and development of robotic exoskeletons capable of taking over the user’s nervous system and doing the work for them! We call them Intigrelt Harnesses.” She leaned slightly closer, and whispered loudly, as if miming secrecy. “We operate out here in the middle of nowhere because, well, technically nervous system modification/control is highly illegal in FIC space.” She stood up straight again “But I can assure you our exoskeletons are perfectly safe, and have never killed anyone!”
Again, nobody spoke for a moment, Dr. Formolious continued to grin. “So uh… y’all are evil, right?” Lolanene’s voice echoed through the room.
Dr. Formolious laughed, a sound of genuine mirth. “Oh no no no! Of course not! Our product is designed to help people!” Her smile faded a bit. “There may have been a few… accidents… especially early on.. But…” She was interrupted by the interior airlock door sliding open, it split into three parts as it did, each sliding effortlessly into the floor or ceiling. A man stepped into the airlock. He was a skinny man, with light blonde hair and a dour expression. He wore the same white clothing as Dr. Formolious, but did not share her demeanour.
He entered the room and said “Dr. Formolious, if you are quite finished telling these strangers everything about our illegal research facility, you are needed in C Wing. I will tend to the intruders.” His voice was nasally and unpleasant to listen to, having a sort of whiny, overly loud quality to it. He watched as Dr. Formolious scurried away without another word, the airlock closing behind her. Then he turned to the three women in bulky, muddy, wet environment suits standing in the otherwise sterile airlock. He stood up straight, folded his hands behind his back, and cleared his throat. “Hello, intruders. You are trespassing on Intigrelt’s private property. You have utterly unsterilized our airlock, and have brought unnecessary attention to us by landing here. Who is in command here?”
Niarith’s suit speaker squealed to life, but her voice was garbled and unintelligible, the speaker squealing with feedback. The man pinched the bridge of his nose “Alright, stop, stop! All three of you, exit your suits… please?”
Lucia watched as the other two suits shifted and went still. She wiggled her limbs, but it only moved the suit. “I uh.. I don’t know how.” Niarith and Lolanene climbed out of their suits, and Lucia kept trying whatever she could to make the robotic limbs let go. It did not work. Her suit looked as if it were dancing, in a strange, jerky fashion. She finally looked up from her struggles and noticed everyone was staring at her. “Nia? Help?” Nobody reacted. Lucia realized her suit speaker wasn’t working.
Niarith walked over to her and around to the back of the suit. Lucia felt the robotic arms let go of her limbs as the back of the suit lifted upward. She turned and saw Niarith, with a loving ‘You fucking idiot’ smirk on her face. “Don’t worry Luci, I’ve got your back. Always.” She leaned into the suit and kissed Lucia on the cheek, before making her way back around to where Lolanene and the man were standing. Lucia climbed out of the suit to join them. The air inside the airlock was cold, uncomfortably so. She walked over to stand next to Niarith.
The man standing before the trio just stared for a moment, his expression unreadable. He put a hand on his chin and made a ‘hmm’ sort of noise. He then crossed his arms and sighed. “I don’t know who the fuck you are. I expected a FIC kill team. Pirates, something, someone I could explain things to... you’re just three nobodies!”
“Listen you arrogant motherfu-” Lucia clapped a hand over Lolanene’s mouth and held it there, restraining her with the other arm. She held her that way until she stopped struggling a few seconds later. She looked down at Lolanene with an expression that told her to shut the fuck up.
“If you’re finished manhandling each other, I’ll finish what I was saying. You are nobodies. Unaffiliated with anyone. I don’t know how you got here, or why, but-”
Niarith stepped forward “Listen, sir, we need Ghostinite. Our ship is out. My scans indicated you had some and-”
The man put up a hand “Nonono stop, stop. Talking.” Niarith fell silent, a look of slight annoyance on her face “Thank you. You want us. To what? Just hand you a chunk of the most valuable mineral in the universe so you can fill up the gas tank? We’re not your neighbor you can just come asking for a cup of sugar from! For fuck’s sake we’re a top secret Blacksite!” He stopped speaking suddenly, stepping back and turning around, his hand on his chin again.
Lucia walked over to him “Sir, we understand it’s an odd request, but I really must insist that y-”
The man turned to her, suddenly furious “I. Am. Thinking. Never interrupt me when I’m thinking.” Lucia had adopted a fighting stance, and her expression said she was prepared to kill. He looked at flatly “Stop that. We both know you’re not going to do whatever it is you think you are. If you tried, you’d be dead in seconds.” He turned away again as Lucia relaxed “Because you see, you’re not in control here. And you’ve seen this facility. You know its exact location. Your ship has its exact coordinates in its computer.” He began walking over to the interior airlock door, which opened as he approached it “So you see, you’re not leaving. Have fun.” He left the room and the door slid closed behind him.
Lolanene walked over to the far wall, crossed her arms, and leaned against it. “I gotta say, this don’t look like the fun havin’ kinda place.” She blew her hair out of her face. Lucia and Niarith joined her.
“I doubt he meant it literally, they’re probably gonna kill us.” Lucia said, bluntly.
Lolanene’s face gained a shocked expression. “I… hadn’t thought of it that way. Thank you Lucia, always a ray a’ torchlight, you are.” She slid her back down the wall until she was sitting on the floor, her hair intentionally over her face.
Niarith kneeled on the floor next to her, her voice calm “Hey, kid, they’re not gonna kill us, if they were gonna do that, they already would ha-” She was interrupted by the sound of gas escaping after being compressed. Lucia looked up to see a strange, red hued gas entering the room from small openings at all four corners. It covered the room almost impossibly quickly, and Lucia barely had time to turn toward Niarith before she fell to the floor, her muscles twitching uncontrollably. She saw Niarith and Lolanene having the same issue, but could do nothing to help them as her vision began to darken. The last thing she remembered was extreme pain in her chest, then nothing. Not even darkness, nothing at all.
Lucia sat on the couch in the Epsilon VI’s living area, Niarith leaning against her shoulder on her right, and Lolanene sprawled out on her left. The lights were warm in color, and dimmed to a comfortable level. The pentagonal door to the hallway was open, the hall lights off, a comfortable darkness at the edge of the room. In front of her, the tv displayed some kind of movie. Lucia had never really cared for television or movies, but Niarith liked them, so she engaged in the activity anyway. She looked out to her right, at the display panel that looked like a window. Nothing outside but void and stars, pinpoints of light on a surface of endless darkness. She found it comforting, rather than terrifying, these days. She couldn’t say when the change had occurred, but she was glad it had, now that they were stuck travelling to the nearest star system at light speed. They’d been lucky to end up near a system at all. Now all they could do was wait. Lucia liked waiting, when it was this peaceful, and she was with her love. And Lolanene, she guessed.
As the movie ended, Lolanene returned from the equipment room, carrying, inexplicably, an acoustic guitar. “Where did you even get that?” Lucia asked, disbelief in her voice.
Lolanene was beaming. “I brought it! Remember, you were in your empty bedroom doin’... whatever it was you were doin’, while I was fixin’ the ship and movin’ stuff back in! It’s mine. Has been all my life. It’s.. all the family I got left.” Her expression looked far off and sad, her enthusiasm wilted as she stared down at the floor.
Niarith looked at Lucia with a concerned expression on her face, then looked over at Lolanene “Hey, hon, why don’t you play us something? I’ve never heard a live guitar before! I’ve only seen something like that in museums.”
Lolanene’s enthusiasm shot right back up at that “Really?!”
Lucia smiled, a rarity in front of anyone but Niarith. “Absolutely, kid. Go for it!”
Lolanene walked across the room and sat down in a small chair next to the Display Window. She began to play a soft melody, and to Lucia’s surprise, she started singing. She sang a song about her home, Nether. A song about survivor’s guilt, and overcoming it. It was obviously deeply personal to her. Tears stained Lolanene’s face as she finished, but she smiled up at Lucia and Niarith all the same. “Did ya like it?”
Niarith began to applaud, and Lucia simply nodded. Lolanene grinned as more tears began to fall. “I think I’m gonna like livin’ with y’all…”
Lucia awoke to intense pain and bright light. She was lying on a cot, still in her casual clothing. With some effort, Lucia managed to sit up, and observe her surroundings. She was in a holding cell, the walls a shiny, smooth white material, with the floor made of concrete. There was a door to her left, with a small blue tinted window in it. She was alone. She tried to stand, and immediately fell to her hands and knees, and vomited. She rolled onto her side, and lay there, her mouth tasting of bile, her chest burning with pain.
She almost began to pass out again, when she was startled by an incredibly loud buzzer, and the door to her cell opened. Standing in the doorway, was a feminine humanoid figure. It was clad head to toe in a shiny black material, and had some kind of thin metallic structure attached to the back of its body and limbs. It had no visible face, only the shiny black material. It simply stood there in the doorway, unmoving but for breathing. A synthesized voice, similar to the one Lucia had heard of the Epsilon VI’s comm unit, began to emanate from the structure behind it.
<MESSAGE BEGINS> <SUBJECT 037 IN DISTRESS> <CAUSE FOUND: POISONING> <ADMINISTERING AID TO SUBJECT 037> <MESSAGE ENDS>
The figure entered the room and got down on one knee next to Lucia. It produced a syringe from… somewhere, and moved to inject her. She tried to get up, to get away, but her body was just too weak, and the figure held her down and injected her. To her intense surprise, she actually began to feel better immediately, and sat up, quickly backing away from the thing in the room with her. She coughed, which nearly caused her to vomit again. She recovered herself and asked “W-what in the Void are you?” The figure stood up straight again, the head facing straight ahead, not looking at her. <MESSAGE BEGINS> <UNIT 020 NOT PERMITTED TO EXCHANGE INFORMATION> <ALL WILL BE REVEALED IN TIME> <PLEASE REMAIN CALM> <YOU WILL FOLLOW THIS UNIT> <IF YOU ATTEMPT ESCAPE YOU WILL BE RESTRAINED> <MESSAGE ENDS>