When he woke up in the morning, Nate didn't feel like getting out of his tent. He had been up most of the night, thinking about the ramifications of enochs not emitting NSA static. The conclusions he came to, although not very strong, were definitely unsettling. After he heard that they were leaving, and Catalina's denial of Aiko's objection, Nate took a deep breath and spoke up. He probably wouldn't be doing himself any more favors in her eyes, but he thought what he was thinking needed to be said.
"Uh, Captain, I... I don't think we can quite leave Persephone just yet. And it's not because of a manhunt for Al. Do... do you remember the first day, when you picked up NSA static? Well, after that, and what Turk and the others ran into on the first day, I thought it was the enochs who were emitting it. But then Frank and Al said that enochs weren't smart enough to use weaponry like grenades. And then last night, when we went out to save Aiko, we had to fight enochs, and..."
He paused. If he continued, he would have to reveal his secret power to everyone. He would have to tell them he thought he was able to detect NSA static in the air. He started to shake, his voice trembling under fear of the reaction.
"...And I didn't detect any NSA static in the air. I didn't hear a buzzing in my ears like the first day when you were picking up NSA static. T-This means that the enochs... They aren't the one who are emitting NSA static. But then, i-if they aren't the ones who are doing it, then who is? Remember in the library? You told me that there wasn't a way for the people of this planet to generate NSA static, but yet it was still there, and whoever attacked us was giving it off. Either the people were able to make it somehow, or there's a natural source for it, and it's probably underground, where the people who attacked us are.
"The problem is, I don't know whether or not it made the people more hostile. On one hand, when we ran into Frank and Al, they didn't respond by attacking us, whereas those who attacked us did. That could indicate that they were more hostile. But, when you consider the planet's current state, it's also possible they just thought we were enochs and attacked us off of that assumption.
"Either way, I'm sure of one thing: There are other things on this planet, things that aren't enochs, but yet could show a significant difference between regular humans, just because of their emission of NSA static. A-And because of that, I don't think we should leave Persephone just yet..."
His voice began trailing off at the end, almost to the point where he was mumbling. By the time he had finished his speech, his face instinctively turned away from Catalina, not wanting to see her reaction to what he thought he had figured out. When he realized it, he turned back to look at her.
The captain listened to Nate's explanation and looked increasingly worried as he went on. "Look," she said to him, taking him aside so that the others couldn't overhear. "There might be something else down there that we don't know about. But whatever it is, it's probably not friendly. I'll have it filed with Oraph when we get back to Erza. More importantly, don't talk about this with anyone. Especially not anyone at Oraph. If you start talking about magic powers, someone's going to accuse you of being a Sin-user. That kind of thing follows you."
She clapped Nate on the shoulder. "Help clean up the campsite. Let's get off this dump."
Once everything was packed up into the shuttle, Catalina took her seat in the cockpit and the craft took off. The silent landscape of Persephone retreated beneath them. It wasn't long before Relto city was visible off in the distance.
Higher and higher the shuttle climbed into the atmosphere as the details of the surface shrunk away into obscurity. The ride through the atmosphere to the Lucent, which was still waiting obediently in orbit, was relatively smooth. The captain guided the shuttle back into the docking bay and at last, they were able to disembark.
"Don't get comfortable just yet. We're all going through decontamination before we can take these damned suits off." As she led the entourage to the decontamination chamber, she continued. "Those of you who were exposed to the infected air, I hate to say it, but I'm going to have to quarantine you. There are two main decks to the Lucent. You guys are staying on the bottom deck and it'll be kept sealed off by an airtight locking mechanism. I'll have enough supplies to keep you guys afloat sent down there before I seal it off. You'll be able to contact us by radio if you get lonely."
In the decontamination chamber, they were assaulted by a series of chemical showers and a couple different flavors of radiation. "All right. Before anyone takes off their helmet, it's time to split up. Those going into quarantine should go below deck now. I'll seal you off and we'll be good to go. You might want to take a shower when you get down there. God knows some of you could use one. That means you too, Mathis. And no, the showers are sex segregated, so don't get any bright ideas."
Catalina lay on her back on a sofa in the lounge on the second deck, sighing in relief after a long, satisfying shower. She was finally able to breathe without that damned helmet fogging up and she finally had the chance to fix the unkempt mess that her long scarlet hair had become. "Well, what do you think, guys?" she asked, staring up at the roof. "We made it off that dead rock alive. We've got four days to go before we head back to Erza. What did we find?"
RM Skill: Skilled
After going through decontamination, Turk took a moment to get used to being back in the Lucent. He reached for his helmet, stopping short of removing it to take a look at everyone else. I guess this is staying on. Who knows when this new age technology will break? Better safe than sorry. Instead of heading to the showers, Turk went to the equipment storage to refill his oxygen, and change the suits air recycling systems.
Heading down to the second deck after completing the maintenance on his suit, he spotted the captain on the sofa. "Well, what do you think, guys? We made it off that dead rock alive. We've got four days to go before we head back to Erza. What did we find?"
"What happened there wasn't natural. You don't get a virus specialized to invade and rewrite humans popping up like that in nature. If it was naturally possible, we wouldn't be here. Humanity would've predicted it's own fall a long time ago in a 'zombie apocalypse'." Turk handed a device to Catalina. "It's a few centuries old, but it's valuable. Contains all sorts of literature, from fiction to non-fiction. Rigged it up to a new power source. People didn't make very good batteries that long ago." Turk leaned against a wall. "What do you think happened down there?"
In the lower deck, Nate took off his suit and found a random closet he could store it in. As soon as he had finished, he moved towards a shower, one that wasn't made of chemicals that burned and irritated his skin. It felt nice to have a running shower, and wondered what it would be like to live on Persephone now. It was probably a little obvious they didn't quite have running water, and if they did it couldn't have been very consistent. And, of course, there were the enochs. The only apparently safe place was away from the cities, but he couldn't verify that himself.
After finishing, Nate immediately took a seat he could find that also happened to be in a far off corner. Although he would've liked to talk with the others, he needed time to think. He had gotten off Persephone, but at the same time he felt upset. There were so many mysteries that hadn't been solved, the least of which was what happened to Al. Judging from Aiko's story, however, it was likely he was already dead by the time she had been found.
"At least Aiko's blood isn't on my hands..." he said aloud, looking out a nearby window.
His thoughts drifted back to everything he said to the captain, and in addition, her words to him.
"A Sin-user... Something that'll follow me around..." His voice lowered to a murmur, taking her advice and not letting the others hear it.
He sighed, wishing he had answers to all the questions that were stirring up in his mind. Persephone was the key to the virus, and whoever attacked them, could they have been the key to the cure? Even if he had his laptop, he doubted that he could find answers. What he did wish for, however, was the ability to write it all down in a journal somewhere. But his bag was elsewhere on the ship, in his original room, and he doubted he would find a pen and paper to write with down in the lower deck.
Resigning himself to his thoughts, he continued staring out the window. There wasn't much else he could do for the four days it took them to get back. He could possibly talk to the other infected with him, but after everything that happened, he wondered whether or not either of them even would want to talk to him.
I'll just have to see how things pan out, I suppose...
After giving herself a good scrubbing and donning a simple pink cotton dress, Aiko felt a little better, but she was still very shaken by what had happened on Persephone. The trauma of it all had her locking her bedroom door even when she was awake. She spoke to no one but Excelsior, the little toy robot Rena had given her---and even though she longed to rid herself of Frank's gun, it still rested on her bedside table, a constant reminder of the promise she had made and then broken.
"Hey, Excelsior . . . do you think I'm a bad person?" Aiko asked hesitantly. She sat on the bed, swinging her long legs back and forth in expectation.
Excelsior did not answer.
"You can tell me the truth. I promise!"
He smiled at her the way he always did, but said nothing, and she wept.
RM Skill: Intermediate
Arel came back from her shower feeling refreshed. As she walked by Catalina in the lounge, Arel could only think of the horrors they had seen. They had come close to death a multiple number of times while down there. Meeting Al and Frank was...interesting to say the least. But it still puzzled her as to why conflict broke out between them. But more importantly, she was relieved that all of them had managed to get back to the Lucent alive.
Back in her room, Arel donned her trenchcoat once again and immediately felt at ease. The worn fabric of that coat would never change, despite the fact it had been through so much trauma the past few months. Unfortunately it still smelled like oil no matter how much she put it through a washing cycle. As she sat on her bed, she absentmindedly fingered the dogtags that hung around her neck.
"We really couldn't save Frank...I wonder...if given the chance, would we have been able to?" Sighing, Arel flopped backwards onto her bed and stared at the small window that gave her a glimpse of the starry fields beyond. Persephone was far behind them now.
"What do you think happened down there?" Turk asked.
To be honest, Catalina didn't feel particularly safe with Turk being the only other person in the lounge, but he seemed to be stable for the moment. And they needed to start piecing together their findings. "You're right," she replied. "Whatever it was, it wasn't natural. I don't believe it was Oraph-made, since they would already have a cure for it. If it was manmade, I have a hard time believing that no one was able to find protection against it.
"But what bothers me the most is how it got off Persephone in the first place. Even if the fastest ship in the universe left Persephone as soon as the infection broke out, it would still be another 10 years before it could make it to Morgan without the Nexus."
RM Skill: Skilled
"Got off of Persephone?" Turk questioned, looking at Catalina with a skeptical expression. "We just brought it off planet, Captain. This is the only time that it's leaving Persephone. As for how a similar virus popped up elsewhere- When developing weapons, the best option is to test them first." Turk chuckled. I can't believe I didn't consider this. "Biological warfare was common in the early history of humanity. We wiped out entire colonies due to conflicting opinions, ideologies, or for the possession of scientific research." Turk pulled out a knife, and looked at it. "Whenever I get a new knife, I make sure it works."
Turk glanced back at the woman. "Who says that the entities who unleashed the virus was on Persephone when Oraph closed the gate?" Turk looked around the room, confirming that it was empty. Leaning in closer to Catalina, he added, "Look, I don't like you. But you've kept the others from killing me, so I'll give you some advice. Don't tell anyone of what we discussed. Oraph is a big organization- There are plenty of groups within Oraph that are operating independently, and controlling information. Ever heard the phrase 'Don't let your right hand know what your left hand is doing'? Makes you wonder how Oraph closed the gate so quickly after the outbreak, especially considering that it shows nothing obvious at the beginning."
This post has been edited by Tohsaka: Aug 13 2011, 05:15 PM
RM Skill: Intermediate
"...Ow...ow." Arel almost fell asleep looking at the stars but was awakened by a pain in her right eye. She got up from her bed and went towards a small mirror that she had in the room. Lifting up her bangs, she noticed that her right eye was twitching, stinging, and bloodshot. "And here I was thinking I could last the whole way without triggering another attack....Maybe I should carry pain pills on me from now on." She wiped away a few tears with the cuff of her jacket sleeve and flattened down her bangs. It was then that she remembered that the captain wanted to exchange information.
"Oops. I guess I forgot about that part."
Arel quickly rushed outside towards the lounge. Settling herself on a posh couch a bit away from where Turk and Catalina sat. It seemed that she was barging in on the end of a conversation as she only heard Turk say, "Ever heard the phrase 'Don't let your right hand know what your left hand is doing'? Makes you wonder how Oraph closed the gate so quickly after the outbreak, especially considering that it shows nothing obvious at the beginning."
The captain listened to Turk's explanation and sighed. "If Oraph was behind it, then why bother with the charade of sending us to Persephone? They'd have nothing to gain by potentially letting people in on their conspiracy. As much fun as it is coming up with conspiracy theories, we need to prepare a real response for Oraph. If we just hand the data over to them, it'll take them too long to disseminate it. They're going to want a plan of action immediately."
Catalina tried to round up the others to have a discussion on the information they had gathered on the surface, but was unable to motivate them into coming out of their rooms.
The second day aboard the Lucent came. This time, the captain didn't come to distribute rations for breakfast. Lunchtime came and there was still no word from her. A concerned Zhi decided to investigate the strange deviation from routine and was unable to locate the captain, a fact which she announced on the ship's PA system.
After failing to come up with explanations for all the holes in his deductions, Nate went to bed a bit depressed. When he woke up, he immediately went for the sack he brought with him to Persephone. He didn't have his laptop, but he did have plenty of pamphlets and research notes from the planet. After spreading a good amount of them around, Zhi's voice came over the intercom.
"The captain's missing? But, how?"
He looked at his notes, wondering if he should look them over first. With a sigh, the threw his empty sack over them and walked over to the door.
If something happened to the captain, she needs to be found. But where could she go on the Lucent and not be found, unless... She wouldn't be crazy enough to expose herself to the infection down here, would she?
With a gulp, he ran out of his room and began looking through the lower deck. If she was down here, he was going to find her.
His search concluded with the engine room. The door shut behind him, he sighed. He was trembling, hoping the captain would be alright. He turned on the radio, using an open channel to contact everyone in the crew.
"This is Nate. I just finished searching the entirety of the lower deck, and she's not down here. That is all."
He returned to his room, his part done in the search. Now, he needed to focus on what he was doing before his search began: Learning about the virus. Sitting at the table with his notes, he began to read over them. Hopefully they would tell him something he didn't know.
RM Skill: Intermediate
"The captain's missing? That's impossible." Arel had deduced that there was no way that the captain could have simply disappeared on the ship. It seemed Nate had searched the lower deck and the captain was nowhere to be found there either. "Alright, I'm heading to the living quarters first. Just to double check."
It's possible she had an accident somewhere perhaps? A ship is still as ship no matter how advanced the technology is. Accidents can happen...
Unfortunately, she doesn't find the captain lounging around in her nightgown. However, Arel does find several empty ration boxes lying around. She kneels down towards the empty ration boxes. "....Do we have a stowaway on here? It would possibly explain why the captain's missing? Perhaps she tried to apprehend them and got caught up?"
"There's no sign of the captain in the living quarters," Arel reported via radio, "However, there are some empty ration boxes lying around. I suspect we may have an intruder onboard...or someone has been getting the munchies and didn't bother to inform the crew."
I wonder where I should search next? Probably the storage areas.
RM Skill: Skilled
Turk was undoing the his customizations in the Surveyor when he heard the news that the captain was missing. Stepping out to look around the hanger, he didn't locate anything of note. "No sign of the captain in the hanger." Glancing at the shuttle, Turk decided to take a look.
Entering the vessel, he checked the cockpit, and the cargo bay. "Nothing in the shuttle." Feeling that he had reasonably contributed to the search, Turk returned to the Surveyor.
This post has been edited by Tohsaka: Aug 23 2011, 06:41 PM
RM Skill: Skilled
Finishing up his work, Turk felt somewhat restless. He left the Surveyor, and headed through decontamination. Not having the Captain could lead to serious problems for me. He reached for the communication controls on his environmental suit, but then abruptly stopped, remembering that the Lucent's crew would hear him too. Dammit.
Turk silently tracked down the other members of the landing party, and pulled them together in one of the ship's armories. "We have a few options left to us. We need to locate the Captain, or we need to take control of the life support systems and the bridge." Turk laid some tasers and batons out in front of the group. "If we have an intruder abroad, take care to not get overpowered. If possible, disable it, and we can figure out what happened from interrogation. On the other hand, we cannot make it back unless we have control of the ship. There is a possibility that the intruder will go after the crew or the life support system, if its objective is to prevent us from return through the gate. There is also a possibility that a member of the ship's crew might do the same, probably in an act of fear and desperation." Turk grabbed a few knives, and moved away from the group. "I'll inform Aiko and Nate. You've all been through the Persephonian Hell, and made it back. No point in stopping now."
(Please note that although this post is late, it does not move time forward from our last stopping point at all. It's also very poorly written. I realize this, and may edit it later when my thoughts are more composed.)
Aiko woke the next morning feeling empty, her eyes red and puffy from a night of crying. At breakfast she said nothing and, strangely, ate little, though the captain's absence was unusual. I guess she must be busy.
Her appetite remained diminished at lunchtime.
"I'm so tired," Aiko muttered. "I'd better take a nap."
About twenty minutes later, she heard Zhi's voice blare in her ears. Something about the captain . . . what's going on?
[Alright, this is pulling from some pretty old posts. Plus it's past 4 in the morning so I'm fairly tired. I'm pretty sure I didn't screw anything up and say something that I shouldn't know or did something that wasn't possible. If I did, please let me know~]
After skimming his notes, there wasn't anything additional that he found out that he didn't already know and was useful. With a sigh, he put down the last paper he was reading and looked at the ceiling of his room.
"There's only one lead we've been given... NSA radiation as the cure to the virus. But it doesn't explain how a source of NSA radiation got on that planet in the first place. The captain said Persephone wasn't advanced enough to create it, meaning either it was already on the planet before the gate was shut down, or someone managed to get there after the outbreak.
"And then there's that group that attacked us that were emitting NSA radiation... Who were they? They were smarter than enochs, meaning the virus didn't seem to be affecting them. Could they have been working for Andrew? If that's true, it could provide credit to the theory that NSA static is the cure, and they were sent to gather information from the planet. I doubt he would willingly send men down to the planet for information if he didn't expect them to come back perfectly fine.
"Lastly, there's also our immunity to the virus... If these sheets are accurate, the only known immunity is Utrecht Syndrome. But it's a disease that only occurs in trueborns. Could everyone here really be a trueborn with Utrecht Syndrome? It seems so unlikely... Plus, if that is the source of our immunity..."
He shuddered at the thought. He'd read up on many of the eventual symptoms of Utrecht Syndrome, and it most certainly was not the way he wanted to die.
"Dammit! Why can't these tell use everything we need to know? Days of searching, and all we have is nothing more than the possibility of a cure!"
A fist slammed down on the desk, scattering some of the papers on it across the nearby floor. It was soon followed by his head,
"How am I supposed to save everyone if we can't find a cure...? I wish I knew more about NSA static, but I doubt I could find more about that while we're still in transit. ...I should've known it was impossible. Scientists were researching this virus for some time, were we really supposed to expect a cure be handed to us?"
In his head, he was slowly losing the battle against his depression. Not only did they not have a guaranteed cure, but it also indicated he and the others would likely kill themselves. With a sigh, he turned on the radio he was given. Depressed or not, he had an obligation to tell them. Perhaps they knew something he didn't, and could even strengthen his theories. He set his radio to public, so that all the members of the ship could hear him, and began.
"H-Hello, everyone. This is Nate. I... I understand why you all might want to keep searching for the captain, but I think there are more important things we should discuss... We were sent on Persephone to discover a cure, weren't we? But if all we have are these notes... well, I certainly didn't find anything that said what a for-sure cure was."
With that, he transitioned into the conclusions he stated not even a few minutes prior. Starting with the possibility of NSA static being the cure, the possibility of Andrew's involvement on the planet, and ending with a direct question if anyone among them who was on the Venerate wasn't a trueborn. The most he could do, after finishing his ramblings, was wait for a response.
RM Skill: Intermediate
Arel walked over to the cargo hold, with a flashlight in hand, and her trusted rifle slung across her back. After retreating to her room to retrieve the weapon, she had the idea to search the stuffy room.
The light from the tool traced wide arcs around the large area as the pilot quietly searched around. The captain didn't seem to be here either. Flicking off her flashlight, Arel steps out of the cargo hold.
Thump, thump, thump. Footsteps could be heard below her. Having memorized the layout of the ship, the young pilot deduced that the engine room was right below her. She quickly accessed her intercom unit.
"Hey, I think there might be someone in the engine room. Someone in the lower deck, please check it out."
RM Skill: Skilled
Quarantine. It wasn't like Jun was surprised or anything by the decision, but it didn't make the official act of being locked up any more pleasant. While he was glad that no one made a particularly big scene out of it, it still felt like Catalina was telling the group of them to start losing hope. As if any of them had any more.
The other two potential infected, Aiko and whoever that quiet guy was, took off to their own corners of their plague deck once they got the opportunity. They didn't give any words of comfort or false smiles. Of course not. He wasn't exactly locked up with the life of the party.
Unfortunately, no matter how much he wanted to appreciate being left alone, for once solitude felt borderline pointless. He'd spent the entire trip detached from everyone else, and in the past couple days, all I could bring himself to think about was shit like mortality. His head wasn't exactly being the nicest place right now.
On top of that, the lower deck was the deck of absolutely nothing interesting. He had nothing to do, and his mind was something of a hell right now. People actually seemed like the lesser of two evils.
He couldn't even believe he was thinking that.
Hell to it, though. Maybe he could get something out stalking the other two. Maybe they had different ideas about how to deal with their situation. Sure, it was creepy of him, but did any of that really matter any more when he could wind up a rabid beast within the month? It was classier than attacking people in the nude, at least.
Whatever-His-Name-Was was more boring to watch than a brick wall. He just wandered around, thinking to himself. Even compared to the nothing he was doing before, it was a waste of time.
Aiko, on the other hand, was talking to a toy robot and crying her eyes out. Nothing out of the ordinary for her. Of course, it didn't exactly make him any less annoyed by it.
"Jesus, calm down. You're probably not even infected." He found himself speaking up from around the corner, not particularly caring that doing so blew his cover. "You're trueborn, right? You're the ones with the chance of getting out alive."
As the second in command, it was Zhi's responsibility to take control of the situation upon Catalina's disappearance. The entire thing was a concern, but it was slightly more vital to reorganize everyone. The ship was only so large, and the captain had gone missing in the past. It was much more important to start working on a plan for a cure. For the sake of Jun, and everyone else in danger. While the group of them were simply placed in quarantine on the ship, Oraph's ideas of plague control might not be as civil. This could very well be their only chance.
After calling up the upper deck crew, the group of them met up to discuss what matters they considered to be most pressing.
Unfortunately, the conglomeration of their findings didn't reveal all that much more. Something felt like it was missing. Something that had been bugging her since Nate commented on the NSA static.
"There have been a couple of hints that Uetrecht's Syndrome might be somehow related. Is any more known about it than our plague?"
"Hey, I think there might be someone in the engine room. Someone in the lower deck, please check it out."
Someone upstairs called to the lower deck crew over the radio again, this time with an actual order. While not normally the sort to take on responsibility in the face of danger, at this point, he was feeling bored enough to take on the job.
Plus, he kind of wanted to see what kind of idiot would break a quarantine.
"Yeah, yeah. I'm checking." He reported back, before peeling himself off the floor and meandering toward the engine room.
As soon as Jun opened the door to the engine room, he was assaulted by the strong odor of chemicals and something else. Something unpleasant. A thick, orange-colored fluid seeped out from under the door. The source of the fluid was a large metal capsule sitting on the center of the floor, which had been torn open. Copious amounts of the chemical leaked out from the capsule, as well as something else.
The capsule was covered with grotesque blood spatters. From the angle Jun is standing, he can't get a clear view of its contents, but something organic and shredded is visible, along with what he's sure are exposed ribs.
In the corner of the room, a figure dressed in a well-stained jacket is huddling. The captain is pale and covered in blood--especially her front and her face. Her gaunt face looks up as Jun appears in the doorway and her bloodshot eyes gaze at him listlessly.