Flight of the Navigator

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OOC Date: April 29, 2011
IC Date: February 8, 2128

Chief Petty Officer Jovanovic is thawed out for navigational needs.

Crew Stasis Hold - Deck Two

The sickly green glow of the stasis chambers provides most of the light in the cavernous hold - they make enough light on their own, little else is really needed. Two hundred and twenty such chambers are scattered about the hold, containing the entirety of the crew when they're in stasis, each roughly the size of a phone booth and cylindrical in shape.

While the majority of a stasis chamber is made of metal and contains all of the sensitive equipment needed to sustain the person within, the front is made of a high grade plexiglass that is completely clear, allowing a view of the person inside. One would almost think that they stand upright except that their toes do not touch the ground, instead they float in a greenish liquid that accounts for the color of the light coming out of each unit. The people inside wear only the minimum necessary - a version of tighty whities for the men, and the same plus a halter style top for the women. Numerous tubes and wires are connected to them at points all over their bodies, pumping in and filtering out liquid similar to the kind they float in. One of the elements of stasis involves removing all of the blood from the body and replacing it with a synthetic liquid that preserves the internal organs and bones and prevents the body from aging. The liquid they float in does the same for the skin, muscles and hair. Wires connected to the head and various parts of the body stimulate the muscles and brain to prevent atrophy and to keep the person in a hypnotized state of peace.

In addition to the stasis chambers themselves, the hold also contains several control and monitoring stations that allow manual operation of the stasis system when crew members are awake. One door is all that the hold contains, and it leads out to the central corridor of Deck Two.

Consciousness comes slowly, starting at the back of the mind and bubbling up like pockets of air in molasses. It seems to take forever. The first sense to come alive is the general sense of awareness, of being present in the here and now - wherever and whenever that maybe. Realization dawns that the body is floating, and the faint prickles of wires disengage in from the body follows shortly after. Warmth begins to flood in as blood returns to the body and synthetic preservative is cycled out. Tubes retract save for those in the nose and mouth that still provide oxygen. Bubbling and hissing fill the ears and the feet gradually touch the bottom of the chamber, the liquid draining away, and soon feet and legs support the body, or at the very least attempt to. Some may find themselves quite shaky despite the regular stimulation of the muscles. When eyes finally open, the world is blurry and vague. One sensation overcomes everything else.

The hunger.

Such hunger.

Do people dream in stasis? If so, what do they dream of for years? This is a question that soon loses much significance as consciousness replaces the strange dream-state. Muscles unused for years are suddenly called into action, and despite his efforts to the contrary, Marko Jovanovic falls on to his hands and knees in front of the statis pod that has been his home for so long. Dark hair plastered to his face and forehead, still dripping with green bath liquid, and the only words out of his mouth are ragged coughs and gasps. One hand reaches up to clutch at his stomach, suddenly aware of the ungodly hunger in his guts. What the hell is going on?

There isn't much of a welcome party. Granted, the process of going into stasis was staggered and orderly, but one might imagine that arrival at the planet would be cause for a lot more business, maybe some organized chaos. Instead, the bay is quiet, largely lit by the strange, glowing green of the gel that fills up most of the tubes. Maybe 30 of the 220 stasis chambers in this room are empty, obvious bits of darkness, hollow and void. Only the ship's executive officer has turned out to witness this awakening; she stands off to one side, a towel draped over one arm and a data pad in hand, though this has lost its appeal for the time being. "Chief Jovanovic," she greets, after he has had a moment to himself, to collect what few thoughts he has, but also probably to make sure that no bile is retched up onto her shoes. "Good morning."

Gritting his teeth and squeezing his eyes shut to suppress the pain of the ravenous hunger, Chief Jovanovic pushes himself up to his knees and takes a quick peek around the bay. 30 out of 220 doesn't add up, but that's a question for later. Turning his attention to the one person present and addressing him, he inhales sharply and responds with a "Morning, sir. What time is it?" As wretched as the waking up process is, the man still notices how many stripes are on Eisley's uniform to recognize her as a superior officer. He probably even recognizes Eisley from way back.

It's entirely probable. After three months of training aboard the Genesis, nearly everyone crossed her path at least once. Anyone who had an excuse to spend any real amount of time on the bridge ought to be familiar with her: Commander Eisley is precision-polished, and maybe sews titanium rods into the backs of her uniforms. The towel, meantime, is offered over. "Just after 08:30," she answers. "Today is February 8th. 2128." Four years too early, which is an important little detail.

It is especially important for a ship's navigator, whose duty is to calculate course and transit time for each trip. "We took a wrong turn." Marko hazards, while he moves to a crouch, then attempts to rise to his own two feet. It would make sense, why else would the navigator be brought out of stasis? The offered towel is taken, and brought to his face to wipe away the green fluids. His disorientation is dissipating at a good pace, enough so that he gazes down at his dripping, hairy body in nothing but a pair of briefs. "Well this is inappropriate." He observes.

The guess merits a ghostly smile; the observation sharpens it and makes it genuine, though Commander Eisley addresses only one and not the other. "No," she says, effortlessly calm and managing to permit this bemusement to shine through. "We know exactly where we are. However, how we have come to be here is… something of a tale, and not a brief one. Go clean up and visit the mess hall. Take a shower, get some breakfast. Report to my office in two hours and I will bring you up to speed."

The towel is now draped across his shoulders, and Marko reaches up to idly scratch at his short beard, as if feeling whether it has grown out in the intervening years. "If it's all the same to you, sir, I'll be up in 45 minutes." He winces a bit before leaning a shoulder against the pod he just came out of, as the nausea hasn't completely passed. "You know how I hate mysteries."

Eisley tilts her head slightly. "Just like I hate surprises. Sadly, this story is both. Take your time; we aren't going anywhere for the moment." There might be something slightly ominous about this statement, though she offers very little to nuance that. The words themselves - and the timing, and the selection of people that have been drawn from stasis - only builds upon the feeling that something is wrong with this picture. "45 minutes then, Chief. I will see you in a little while." And with that she leaves him to whatever dignity stasis trunks and a towel provide, and turns to make her way into the corridor beyond.

XO's Office - Deck Three

Every good office is dominated by a desk and this one is no exception. The XO's desk is almost eight feet across, half that in width, a sheet of black glass that shimmers through with motes of color. Bits of it light up as needed, becoming brilliant controls that respond to a touch and then fade into nothing when not. Behind it sits a high-backed chair, sleek and black. Behind that is a plasma screen that occupies almost the entire wall, pretending to be a window that looks out into space when not otherwise in use. In front of the desk are two smaller chairs, also black though not as imposing. Black is a theme here; there is also a sleek black sofa set against one wall, ruining the perfect linear symmetry of the room. It matches the charcoal color of the carpet, and imposes in hard lines against the ivory walls.

Eisley's office might be familiar space. Everything is as it was before the voyage began, neat and orderly, though with little to personalize it. The plasma screen behind her desk functions sometimes as a map, sometimes as a monitor, and sometimes as a window: this morning it shows a black field of space, scattered with a riot of stars, which reflect on the black glass of her desktop. Stars are all well and good, but they are not the only thing in that image. There are -ships- there. Two of them. One is large, asymmetrical in shape, with spires and protrusions at seemingly odd and illogical places, and while clearly constructed of metal it appears almost organic. The smaller - much smaller - is compact, efficient, like a thing built for speed, or maybe for ripping and tearing. The Commander herself sits at her desk, scanning through something on the data pad.

After a few years when time stood still, the concept of punctuality can be somewhat fluidic. Marko does make it to the XO's office around the appointed time, if not dead-on schedule. The man has cleaned up, but as Eisley may recall, Chief Jovanovic is never the spit-polished navy poster-childe. He arrives with his uniform shirt half-worn, exposing the black tank underneath, but at least his pants and shoes are on properly. He even has an apple that he's trying to finish when he knocks and allows entry.

"Reporting for…" Marko starts, but his eyes are drawn to the screen behind Eisley's chair. "…What in the…" He stares with a mouthful of half-chewed apple, no doubt shocked by the sight of what appears to be alien ships floating out there. Marko may be awestruck by the sight, but the man appears to be taking in the whole picture behind Eisley, not the most eyecatching items there. "-Where- are we?" He adds, lifting his apple to point at the screen. "I can't place this starfield."

"At ease," says the XO dryly, though a touch belatedly. She sets the data pad down and glances over her shoulder as if somehow unaware of what was there, as though the screen had a habit of randomly changing on her. Obviously it does not, but it creates a moment of pause for her to consider in. "Perhaps you should sit down," Eisley suggests, thereafter. Then her mood shifts. It is a subtle thing, but whatever wry amusement she might have held in that moment as an ember to keep away the dark is snuffed out, replaced with something somber. "We are somewhere in the Corona Borealis Supercluster." That would be one -hell- of a wrong turn. 500 billion light-years worth, at least.

The navigator turns his gaze back at the XO, almost as if he thought she might be joking. He does pull out one of the chairs and settles on it, though he might have lost his appetite to finish that apple now. When Marko sits, he slumps back even if it's obvious he is anything but relaxed, in light of what's there on the screen and Eisley's own tones. "Sorry, where are we again? For a second there I thought you said Corona Borealis Supercluster." Which, of course, is a navigational impossibility.

Eisley is -not- well known for the sense of humor that she retains when on duty; judging from the precise lines of her uniform and the tight braiding of her hair, that would be now. Her expression lends terrible veracity to this, a sober weight that darkens her gaze. "The Coronoa Borealis Supercluster," she repeats, adding a more specific sector location that narrows the collection of galaxies and alien stars down considerably, but makes it no less impossible. "We arrived here some 36 hours ago."

Marko nods, without a hint of mirth on his features. Most likely he is merely accustomed to reconfirming information given by officers who habitually misremember names of star systems and galaxies. His eyes shift back to the ominous scene behind the XO, two alien ships floating before a completely unfamiliar star field. The usual questions to follow would no doubt be 'how?' or 'why?', but in Marko's case, it's evidently: "Where are we going?"

It's a refreshing question. "We were given the coordinates of a new planet that may be a prime colony site. When we have concluded our business here, we will likely set a course for it and see what it really has to offer." Eisley sets down the data pad, and pushes it aside. With the space in front of her cleared off she settles her wrists against the edge of the desk, hands folding together. "The New Eden site was compromised. Earth was… compromised." This word is chosen with care, even if it is apparently simply recycled from the previous thought.

He listens, occasionally glancing up at the plasma screen in an attempt to link the audio and visual information together. Flicking a finger at the alien vessels as Eisley finishes, Marko hazards once more. "-They- gave us the coordinates." He says, a statement more than a question. "I assume -they- also gave us a star map of this region of space. Which I'd very much like to study as soon as possible." The man is clearly thinking ahead, not what's already happened, yet the missing past still needs to be filled in. "When you say 'compromised', it means we are not expecting to return, I take it?"

"They have," she verifies, "given us a map to as much of space as they have explored." Which could be this region, or could be a great deal more; it is difficult to tell in this particular moment. Still, Eisley promised a story and she has been circling it for a little while now; it is not something that can be avoided forever. Now it is his last question that makes her exhale in a soft sigh. "Not any time soon." Then she straightens, adopting what could be called the narrator's tone. Calm, collected, with the easy cadence and rhythm of someone trained to present information. Even the hard kind. "One month ago, Eve brought most of the senior officers out of stasis. The ship's sensors had locked onto a small Giver vessel moving on an intercept course. It was unmanned; it carried only a message for us. An apology."

Marko has been mostly expressionless throughout this all, with the notable exception of the surprise when he first laid eyes on the alien ships and the unknown star field. The mention of an apology from the Givers now brings about a quirk of his brows. He even stiffens a bit in his chair. It's easy to assume the worst, especially with the knowledge that Earth has been -compromised-. The man doesn't interrupt, content with listening.

It's a safe bet that the XO has delivered this speech before. There is a rote quality to it, and a sadness: an old ache suggesting that the difficulty of the information has not gotten -much- easier to bear. "The Givers, as a species, had been hunted almost to extinction by another race, called the Devourers. In an attempt to save the last of their own kind, they offered these Devourers the location of a planet inhabited and overpopulated by a species bent on its own wanton, rapid self destruction. Almost as quickly, they were overcome by guilt and sent a transmission containing all of their technological developments and the plans for colony-building ships capable of carrying a million humans each. With this came a warning of what was to come." She allows a moment for this to sink in; the coolness of her voice makes this almost clinical, but… not. "They hoped that we would have time to save ten or twelve million of our kind. The powers that be, however, decided to invest in weapons technology. They built the Genesis as an afterthought Sadly for the Givers, their gambit failed. The Devourers continued to hunt them until none were left."

It is easy to infer from what's been said, and project towards something far more blood-chilling. Chief Jovanovic has now leaned forward in his seat, elbows resting on his knees and fingers steepled under his chin, listening raptly to the XO's tale. He knows there is more, so he stays his questions. The only interruption he voices is when he reaches inside the pocket of his uniform shirt. "May I?" He asks at the same time he fetches a packet of cigarettes. Some bad habits never die.

The request is considered. If there is a hint of dismay, it is closely guarded. "Just this once," Eisley allows. Under the circumstances, pollution of the common circulated air is possibly permissible. "A few days later, we received a single transmission from Earth, dated July of 2124, confirming that the Devourers had turned their sights on Earth. A second, much smaller ship was built and launched, but there is no knowledge of its location or its fate. The outer posts around Saturn and Jupiter went first, then Mars and the Moon…" Her eyes flicker closed for a second. When they re-open, her gaze fixes again. "The Givers suggested three alternatives to the New Eden site. The option Captain Ramesh chose is the one that took us furthest away, fastest. Through a wormhole."

Though it is difficult to tell, Marko's nod to the XO's permission is one of subtle gratitude. He fishes out a single cigarette and slips it between his lips. As he listens and searches for a lighter, he murmurs. "And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die." He trails off when the lighter is produced, lighting the cigarette so that he can take a nice long drag in six years. "But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee." The navigator muses morbidly with biblical quotes, blowing smoke through his nostrils only when Eisley brings up 'wormhole'. "That's how we got here, a wormhole. Suppose that's no longer just a theory." All things considered, he's taking the news fairly well.

Morbid though the selection might be, it is fitting in this moment. The XO bears it, and the waft of blue-white smoke, and watches the man across from her come to terms with this revelation. Silence follows his words, and his observation; the correctness of it merits a singular nod, but she doesn't speak again immediately. There must be more thoughts to gather and tie up into neat, presentable little bows. To do this a breath is taken, then held, but eventually she uses it to go on. "The smaller ship you see on display is a Devourer ship. A fleet of five came after us, and we narrowly avoided them catching us. When we came through the wormhole, we found this one and four more just like it locked in combat with several like the second ship. This second group of aliens, best called The Two, are the ones responsible now for the location of our next destination, the star charts, and so on." There is surely more, but those are all secondary details and probably not relevant to -this- conversation. Thus, she adds, "The Givers' transmission and the message from Earth are on record in the ship's database, as are the star charts. You may review any or all at your leisure."

Taking another drag on his cigarette, Marko peers up at the plasma screen once more, as Eisley explains the ships' significance. One may even see that he is already trying to formulate some course of action in his head as he observes the alien vessels. "We are effectively lost in space." He finally points out, his tone decidedly dry. "Everything we know now is at the good graces of these "Two" aliens, who are helping us from the goodness of their hearts. If they even have hearts." Letting loose with another puff of smoke, Marko straightens up in his chair. "I'll get right on the star charts. Last thing we need now is to fly blind."

"…no," counters Eisley with a shake of her head. "They traded this information in exchange for our assistance in capturing a pair of Devourers for them." Secondary details! A little nod is given to the rest of what he says, though. "I would appreciate that. Technically, you have 48 hours of leave beginning now in order to recover from stasis and schedule appointments with the doctors, but to date no one has taken the full 48. Anyway, we will not be leaving here until we have satisfied our side of the contract, which will give you some time to familiarize yourself with this part of space."

Secondary details indeed. Marko does a double-take at that piece of afterthought, but evidently decides the XO, and presumably the marines have that in hand. "Probably best to keep busy." He points out. Noticing the half-eaten apple that he left on the XO's desk, he picks it up with his free hand while the other plucks the cigarette from his lips. "Appreciate you taking the time to explain all this." The man adds as he rises from his seat. "Permission to speak freely before I take my leave, sir."

Eisley watches the whole packing up and leaving ritual with casual interest, maybe as if making sure that nothing ashen or fruit-related gets left behind on the glass. "We live in interesting times, Chief Jovanovic," she points out. To the last, however, she offers up but a single nod to punctuate her acknowledgement. "Granted." Almost as quickly as she says this one brow curves upward, adding an unvoiced touch of inquiry to preempt whatever follows.

Marko takes one last drag on his cigarette as he stands before the XO's desk, squinting a bit and nodding to Eisley's granting of his request. Once more he plucks the cigarette from his lips and gestures it at the commander. "You look really good in that uniform." He points out helpfully. "I've wanted to tell you that for six years." A ghost of a smile touches the lips behind his beard, which is accompanied by a lazy salute. "With your permission, I'm going to start with the star charts on the bridge."

The precise way her eyebrow lifts is the perfect lead-in to a sharp smirk, a vorpal sort of amusement that swiftly absolves her of the somberness demanded by this debriefing. Even so, all Eisley does is tilt her head, maybe acknowledging the first but more likely the second of those two statements, one official-like and one not. "Dismissed, Chief."

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