USNS Odyssey, stationary above Mars’ first moon, Phobos
August 22nd, 2532
Zander and I were walking down the hallway to reach the shuttle that would take us back to the surface. We needed to talk with Alpha about the incomplete cores, and if there was any way to obtain a completed code.
“Do you think he’ll actually give the code to us?” Zander asked me. A group of soldiers went sprinting by, pushing us to the wall. Zander was surprised, but I was starting to get angry.
“That’s the third group that’s gone running past!” I shouted, watching them continue towards the shuttles. “Where could they all be off to in such a hurry?”
“Got me. Maybe it’s a drill.”
“Wouldn’t the rest of the ship have been notified? It’d be a bit safer.” We continued walking. “And as for the code, he may. It’s certainly worth asking.” We reached the shuttle bay a few minutes later, after two more groups had gone by us. I asked the operator in the bay, but he didn’t know either. I shrugged, and walked with Zander to the shuttle that we had been using to get to the surface.
Shuttles were small, with a capacity of fifteen to seventeen people. We were the only two on this one, though.
“You guys aren’t going down armed?” The pilot asked, and we found this strange.
“No, why would we be armed going into the ruins?” I answered. Had something happened on Phobos, and that’s where all the soldiers had been running?
“Dunno. A few of the other pilots have shuttled down a platoon of infantry grunts for something going on inside the ruins. We don’t know much besides that.” I looked to Zander, worried.
“We need to get down there.”
The shuttle lurched out of the bay it rested in and into the empty expanse of space. After a minor course correction, it shot towards the surface. The ride didn’t take long, maybe three minutes from start to finish, but even that wasn’t fast enough for me. I could only imagine what was going on inside the base that would require an entire platoon of infantrymen. The pilot gave us the green light, opened the doors, and I rushed out. Before I could make it to the door that led inside the base, a soldier grabbed me by the collar of my uniform, dragging me around a corner.
“Hey!” I yelped, falling. I had been so wrapped up in my own thoughts, that I didn’t notice the entire platoon standing on either side of the base’s entrance. The soldier helped me up, and apologized for being so rough. Zander caught up a few moments later.
“What’s going on?” The local channel clicked on with his question. I was busy dusting myself off.
“I was just about to ask the same question.” I turned to look at the soldier who’d pulled me down. He shouldered his rifle, and explained that the AI running the base had gone insane, starting to attack any USN soldier who entered. I was confused. That didn’t sound like the Alpha that we’d been studying with over the past few months.
“Are you sure it’s the same AI, and not a defense system?” I questioned. He was. “And do you have any idea what caused the sudden shift?” He didn’t. The platoon had been sent down after a distress signal from a squadron that was patrolling the base.
“My ass that’s all they were doing…” I muttered to myself, keeping the comm channels closed. I looked up at the Odyssey. What had Captain Rhodes ordered? “Well, what’s the plan, then?” I pointed the question to the soldier, opening the channel again. They were supposed to try and get inside and shut down the AI. “Any idea how to do that?” I asked. He shook his head no. “Thought so.” I walked over to the door, and the soldier reached for me again.
“He’ll be fine, sir.” Zander told the soldier. I held my breath as I stepped out in front of the doors. I certainly hoped he was right. I waited a few moments, exhaling heavily when I realized I was still holding my breath. Nothing happened.
“Next step…” I breathed, keying in the codes to enter the base. The door slid open with a hiss as the airlock chamber depressurized. I stepped inside, and Zander stumbled in quickly behind me. “Risking it with me?” I asked him, opening a private channel.
“Of course. He wouldn’t hurt us.”
“Are you so sure? Remember, he runs on processes and directives, not on feelings.” I hated to admit it after we’d become such good friends, but in the end he was still just a machine. Zander nodded.
“I guess that’s a risk we’ll have to take. We need to know what happened.” I nodded, and keyed in the second code to enter the base. The doors closed heavily behind us, and the chamber began to fill with air. After a few more moments, the second set of doors opened with another hiss as the chamber pressurized to the interior. I stepped cautiously out of the airlock, and looked down the hall. The base felt deserted without seeing Alpha there to greet us. Continue reading