YC120 Pod & Planet Fiction Contest - Abyssal Nightmares

The following is a transcript of Alpha-State Capsuleer Mahazkei Vas’Hiigara’s first exploration attempt made by into abyssal deadspace. Vas’Hiigara tested with Calm and Agitated Electrical filament devices to determine the extent - if any - of the anomalous territories affecting the hull of a ship, or its crew, as the effects of abyssal deadspace, more specifically the “depth”, and environmental effects are not well understood. The approved vessel for use was hardened against EMP and other electrical disturbances, and used armor as a primary defensive measure, specifically for this environment.

All members of the exploration team were equipped with vital monitor implants, located both around the brain and other vital organs to detect any and all anomalous effects as they occurred. Kill switches were also implanted to combat possible contamination. All exploration personnel involved were made aware of this fact before consenting to implantation.

In addition, the approved vessel was manned with a secondary crew, members of Brigade Dwiin-fron/2 “Ladies of Steel”. Members of Dwiin-fron/2 are trained in hostile environmental exploration and warfare against unconventional hostile entities that do not classify as conventional humans. The team’s objective in the test was to streamline exploratory vessel operation, confirm data readout, take over systems and subsystems in the event of partial or complete failure of capsuleer pilot, and serve as damage control in dire circumstances.

While considering possible vessels for the exploration attempts, the Dwiin Tuz was considered multiple times, as it had survived several encounters with Autothysian Lancers and more recently an encounter with the new Drifter Cassandra Tyrannos and Hypnos Tyrannos cruisers. The vessel was constructed with scanning and analysis equipment before this point, and was suited for fast combat in enclosed spaces around Sleeper constructs.

| Abyssal Deadspace Exploration Protocol |

At any time an abyssal deadspace pocket is accessed via a filament device, a circular perimeter 2 km in diameter around the anomaly is to be established while exploration is underway, and a quarantine zone of 1 km around the anomaly is to be enforced upon exploration success. Capsuleers who are to enter an abyssal deadspace anomaly must first undergo Class VII CBRN preparation measures, including the application of a modified hazardous material reinforced airtight lining on all surfaces of the interior and sensitive equipment, and any crew are to wear airtight sealed suits with two hours of oxygen in supply. The application of these protective measures may only take place at a designated station or mobile depot before any filament devices can be authorized for use.

Capsuleers attempting to exit the quarantined area must first submit to thorough decontamination protocols as administered by the quarantine security staff. Exploration personnel failing to meet the quarantine extraction parameters are to be held for further decontamination, or in the event decontamination becomes infeasible, detainment until further notice, and/or termination via kill switch and subsequent reactivation of designated clone.

While any approved filament devices are active, security staff are to scan down the site itself with the use of core scanner probes, and any anomalous features of the abyssal deadspace beacon are to be logged and reported after every exploration attempt.

| Exploration Video Log Transcript |

Date: 120.05.12
Exploration Team: Brigade Dwiin-fron/2, “Ladies of Steel”
Subject: Calm Electrical Filament
Team Advisor: Df2-Adv (Omega-State Capsuleer General Lee Awkward)
Team Lead: Df2-Cap (Alpha-State Capsuleer Mahazkei Vas’Hiigara)
Team Crew: Df2-1 / Df2-2 / Df2-3 / Df2-4
Team Vessel: Gallente Thorax-Class Cruiser “Dwiin Tuz”


Df2-Cap: Recording is active, everyone check your mics.

Df2-2: Engineering check.

Df2-1: Gunnery check.

Df2-3: Drone Command check.

Df2-4: E-War check.

Df2-Adv: Team Advisor check. You’re all clear, Maha-0448. Proceed.

Df2-Cap: Roger, commencing final checks. (Pause) We are set. Activating filament device.

(The Calm Electrical Filament Device was activated, and an abyssal deadspace anomaly was created, taking the Dwiin Tuz into the abyssal deadspace pocket.)

(The Dwiin Tuz emerges in the first abyssal pocket and the vital signs of all crewmembers are stable. However, Df2-Cap’s amygdala begins exhibiting signs of increased activity, including the rise in blood pressure, dilation of both the pupils and bronchi, increased respiratory activity, and increased glucose traffic to the skeletal system. The hippocampus does not show any sign of activity in response to the heightened activity at this time. All signs point to a fear response. No other members of ET-Df2 experience this effect to the same degree, if at all.)

Df2-Adv: ET-Df2, report status.

Df2-1: One’s fine.

Df2-2: Two is good.

Df2-3: Three’s good.

Df2-4: Four is operable.

Df2-Cap: (Silence)

(Df2-Cap’s fear response escalates to a limited-symptom panic attack, as Df2-Cap’s body temperature drops to 297°K. Short convulsions are registered in Df2-Cap’s motor cortex and the hydrostatic shell of Df2-Cap’s capsule. This information is transmitted slowly, and is thus not immediately acted upon, but it is to be noted that all other members of ET-Df2 had no issues in transmitting their vital signs back to Df2-Adv.)

Df2-Adv: '2-Cap, check your connection.

Df2-Cap: (Silence)

Df2-2: Connection reads as stable, but he is unresponsive.

Df2-Adv: '2-Cap, respond. Talk to me, Maha.

Df2-Cap: (Silence)

(At this time the advisory team notice the abnormalities from Df2-Cap’s implants, and were in the process of reporting to Df2-Adv, when Df2-2 reported a target lock from an unidentified Drifter battleship. Damage reports include a grazing shot across the starboard bow with a weapon that did not identify as a Lux Kontos weapon. Weapon heavily damaged the shields, but did not penetrate to armor.)

Df2-2: Taking fire from Drifter, '2-Cap is unresponsive. Assuming control, bring us to- [redacted for brevity]

(Target lock was established and an orbital transit around the vessel using the onboard MWD to outpace the tracking system of the weapon. Shields were active on target, but armor and hull were severely damaged, presumably in a previous engagement with Triglavian forces or other abyssal environmental effects.)

Df2-3: Hammerheads away. I’m going to send them to the max bandwidth range in the direction of the Drifter, and see if it takes the bait.

(Df2-3 deployed the onboard complement of T1 Hammerhead medium drones to distract the Drifter. The drones were more agile than the Dwiin Tuz, but were still out of possible bandwidth range of the Drifter. However, the act of sending the drones at the Drifter was enough to draw its fire from the Dwiin Tuz as the ship slowly closed its orbit around the Drifter.)

Df2-Adv: Give me a sit-rep '2-2.

Df2-2: I have assumed temporary command of the expedition, as '2-Cap is unresponsive. We are holding a slowly closing orbit around the Drifter and we hope to close the distance and eventually put webs on target before lighting her up with the neutron cannons.

Df2-Adv: Solid copy. '2-4, before you enter web range, confirm '2-Cap’s status.

Df2-4: Loud and clear.

(Df2-4 was allowed to leave his post to check on Df2-Cap, as the information from his implants was transmitted to Df2-4.)

Df2-4: It looks like signs of a panic attack, but I can’t imagine why, or even how.

Df2-Adv: We’ll discuss this in debrief, right now I need you to wake him up.

(Df2-4 reached the capsule chamber, but did not open they hydrostatic shell, as Df2-Cap’s primary implants aided in ship operation. Instead, without being able to directly access Df2-Cap, Df2-4 determined that the best he could do is attempt communication with Df2-Cap was to hammer on the capsule walls in morse code, and hail him over comms.)

Df2-4: (hammering in morse code) SEND VSR, REPEAT, SEND VSR.

Df2-Cap: Zu’u los ko aan horvut. Daar golt lost ont dii, nuz nii nu los uth naal fin Vulom.

Df2-4: He’s out of it.

(The Dwiin Tuz suffers from a hit from the Drifter vessel, depleting the shields and damaging the port side armor. At this moment Df2-Cap suddenly registers an increased level of adrenaline and higher function activity around the hippocampus. All Dwiin Tuz functions are rerouted back to Df2-Cap’s control. Df2-Cap still registers as unconscious during this time.)

Df2-Cap: Zu’u fen ni kos ko aan horvut wahl naal dii hahdrim!

(All weapons and active modules overheated as every other member was directed by Df2-Adv to administer nanite repair paste to their respective systems as the damage was incurred. The Drifter is quickly disabled and its destruction results in no recoverable salvage. The reason for this is not understood.)

Df2-Cap: Kos vod nol dii hahdrim.

Df2-Adv: Report, Df2-Cap. Maha, what are you doing?

(No response. The localized abyssal gate opened, and as the Dwiin Tuz alters course, control of the drones was wrestled away from Df2-Cap to destroy the local silo in an attempt to recover any salvage for study. The onboard tractor unit was used to pull the salvage closer for recovery. Df2-Cap makes no comment on this action.)

[redacted for brevity]

(By this point the Dwiin Tuz has reached the third and final abyssal pocket, with Df2-Cap having made indistinguishable references in his native dialect, including “Neh,” “Zu’u fen kos,” and “Daal wah fin Vokun,” all made against a swarm of rogue drones. The Dwiin Tuz has emerged into the third pocket and is met with resistance from a solitary Triglavian cruiser of unknown designation. It proceeds to engage the Dwiin Tuz, which is now heavily damaged by over-reliance on nanite repair paste to keep the constantly overheated modules from failing. The crew have ceased communication attempts with Df2-Cap, who remains unresponsive to all other stimulus excluding his immediate surroundings outside of the Dwiin Tuz. The vitals of all crewmen remain erratic, and stressed.)

Df2-2: Engineering to Advisor, we can’t keep this up. '2-Cap has refused all communication, and at this rate the engines are going to melt with the team lead’s refusal to shut down or turn overheating off. Our supplies of nanite repair paste are dwindling at 5% and we cannot hope to survive the encounter with the Triglavian cruiser and its damage output without the overheating, which is becoming an unviable tactic.

Df2-Adv: Noted, Df2-2. '2-Cap is going to ride this out either way, as we cannot provide a solution at this time.

(The damage incurred from the Triglavian cruiser had taken out close to 50% of the Dwiin Tuz’s armor reserves, and Df2-Cap adopted a new tactic.)

Df2-Cap: Zu’u viidost krif!

(The currently active drones under Df2-Cap’s command were directed to collide into the Triglavian’s dorsal and starboard ventral entropic disintegrators. The first deployed are sent into the starboard ventral turret, and the next two deployed were sent into the dorsal turret. The turrets were disabled and this allowed the Dwiin Tuz to remain in the Triglavian cruiser’s blind spot and out of direct line of fire, allowing it to recover. This is the only moment where most of the Dwiin Tuz’s active modules were not overheated while inside the abyssal deadspace anomaly. The only active modules that were still overheated were the neutron cannons, which were rendered inoperable shortly after the destruction of the Triglavian cruiser.)

Df2-Adv: We have only a few minutes. Maha, vacate the abyss!

(This appears to be the only command that Df2-Cap acknowledges and responds to, by firing the 10MN afterburner on overheat and burning them out a minute before the abyssal gate is reached. The ship slow burned into range of the gate with two minutes remaining, and the ship was quarantined after emerging from the anomaly. All members of Df2 were debriefed and dismissed for psychological evaluation. Df2-Cap’s vitals stabilized after emergence, sending a short burst message to all available channels, and returned to consciousness. The only signs of his ordeal were questionable mental state and physical fatigue.)

| Df2-Cap Debrief Video Log Transcript: |

Df2-Adv: Okay, explain to me what the hell that was in there.

Df2-Cap: I-I don’t…

Df2-Adv: Maha, your vitals were all over the place the moment you went in there, and you acted independently of everything and everyone else without even acknowledging the presence of the crew or my directions.

Df2-Cap: (Silence)

Df2-Adv: Despite the protocol, and everything we were expecting, you put the whole crew and the ship at risk. And we can’t even tell if you were intentionally responsible for it.

Df2-Cap: (Silence)

Df2-Adv: Maha. Level with me, what happened?

Df2-Cap: Do you remember when I told you about the void?

Df2-Adv: Same date as when I first showed you wormhole space, right?

Df2-Cap: Yes. I freaked out then, but I didn’t go AWOL.

Df2-Adv: Is this a similar case?

Df2-Cap: It was so dark in there. There was no connection to anything save for your voice on the outside. I felt like I was flailing in the empty, all while hearing sounds I couldn’t see any links to.

Df2-Adv: Space is often like this. It is a void, broken up by the occasional object, planet, and so on.

Df2-Cap: Not here. There were shadows, shapes of things, but the light was absorbed by all of it. It was void of anything I could touch and feel, while being so loud and discordant that I thought I was alone.

Df2-Adv: Was there a wave or particle that-

Df2-Cap: (Interrupts) When I first entered a clone, I thought I was put backseat. And the same for my first ship. But those moments passed, and I learned to ignore the sensation. This was permanent. I went in there and my shell was not under my control. There was no override, there was no disruption, there was a removal of connection from me and my body. I could see through windows and hear through grates to the outside, but I could do no more than that.

Df2-Adv: (Silence)

Df2-Cap: I was a prisoner inside my own skull, Lee. The kind of nightmare that I imagine every Sansha slave wakes up to every day. I was certain that I would be stuck there forever. I thrashed and screamed and nothing. Nothing.

Df2-Adv: So you experienced a panic attack. But you maneuvered the ship through three different combat environments and made it out, all while muttering something none of us can make out.

Df2-Cap: I know what that means. That’s my native language. I was cursing them, the Drifters, the Trigs, damning them to the darkness. I was exorcising that place. All while unconscious.

Df2-Adv: Do you think it will happen again? If we send you in there, will this happen again?

Df2-Cap: I don’t know, Lee. But I am going back in there. Anything that shakes me this hard must be understood.

Df2-Adv: I know you’re a stubborn bastard sometimes, but you don’t need to put yourself through the wringer just to conquer this.

Df2-Cap: This is not up for discussion. I want to know why that abyss wormed its way into my soul. No one else to date has experienced this, and I should hope they never do. I’m coming back with results.



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