Amun and his crew arrive at the Portal too late to save Erish
Weapons discs floated above the console, positioned as she left them, in lines, equidistant apart, motionless. Now, in zero gravity, he saw them just above their original positions. At the weapons console, more discs, discarded in a haphazard manner, flung onto the surface of the display. Still, they floated where they came to rest. A blaster pistol hovered above a chair.
He activated venting systems on his helmet to prevent the transparency from fogging over. Environmental controls and gravity were disabled here on the bridge. He heard a click.
“Yes, Captain,” Taharqo responded.
“The pods are gone,” Amun offered. He and Taharqo were going over the abandoned Aldebaran, Erish’s ship, looking for survivors. “The shuttle bay was rammed. Doors are mangled, two shuttles smashed up, but none missing.”
“Can you activate environmental and gravity?” Taharqo requested, not being a fan of magnetic boots.
“They ripped out the system core, probably going to reverse engineer,” Amun answered.
Taharqo sighed, realizing the enemy would have their warp technology. He also knew he would have to walk through the ship wearing magnetic boots. “Captain?” Taharqo asked.
“Erish and whoever was at the weapons console, left their weapons here,” Taharqo said.
Amun was silent.
“Captain?” Taharqo asked again.
“I heard you,” Amun responded. “It doesn’t make sense.” There was silence again, then Amun continued, “Why would a Captain and commander of a formation, simply walk off the bridge, leaving her weapons behind?” He was silent, then asked, “And where the hell are our allies?”
“No sign of struggle,” Taharqo continued.
“No computer core, no video, no audio, no records,” Amun sighed again. “…like finding a ghost ship.”
Amun took a few steps towards the main body of the ship. “Any word from Ptah?”
“Not yet, Captain.”
Taharqo saw something shiny, under the Captain’s chair. Feeling underneath with his gloved hand, he found an object, hard, smooth, rectangular. Grabbing hold, he withdrew a communications device. Bending over deeply, caused him to grunt.
“You OK?” Amun asked.
“Found something,” he answered.
Holding the device up to the speaker on his helmet, he pressed the activation control.
The screen on the front of the device illuminated. He saw a video feed from Erish, she was talking. But, he couldn’t hear. She looked stressed. But she was talking. She turned the camera around to show the view through the front window. The footage was hard to make out. It seemed like a net of some kind in front of her ship. Then, flashes of light. She turned the recorder around again and continued talking.
“Captain,” Taharqo spoke into the helmet. “found a comm device; it’s Erish.”
“What is she saying?” Amun asked.
“Can’t hear; need to get somewhere with air to carry the sound.” Another click, “Just a minute, It’s Ptah,” Taharqo responded. “Go ahead.”
The voice was breathing hard, “Get over here right now,” Ptah said.
“What happened?” Taharqo responded.
“Three dead at the Portal,” he paused, “Six trips to the past.”
“What? Taharqo asked.
“Just get over here. We got logs. They went to Sekhem, back in time.” he hesitated, took a deep breath and continued. “Looks like Sumer-earlier,” he continued. “Nobody left alive. Get over here.”
Amun and Taharqo strapped on jet-packs. Tubes docking the Aldebaran to the Solar Portal had been blasted away. Landing pads were unmoored. Two drifted away. The Portal’s stabilizing jets kept it from spinning out of control. Still, it listed dangerously towards the sun.
Taharqo anchored near a detached tube and floated to an outer door. The door spun open, then closed, then open, then closed, repeating. They navigated to the entrance using jet-pack micro bursts. Amun saw lighting inside. The power was still on. He guessed the Potacas were afraid of disrupting power completely, not wanting their journeys to the past to be interrupted by failing energy systems.
They entered the door quickly. There was no shielding to keep breathable air from escaping. Stepping onto the pad, Amun looked down at the common area. He saw one body, a Tayamni female, slumped over a chair. She wore an environmental suit, weapon still in hand, blaster burns on her back. Sculptures had fallen. The corner of a baroque painting was blasted away, the floor dusted with flame retardant. He looked up to the Portal chamber. Walls around the entrance were pock-marked with blaster fire. He saw Ptah standing there. His helmet was off, so they removed their own. He saw Taharqo bending down to remove gravity boots.
“We got footage and logs,” Ptah said wearily. They climbed the short stairway. The normally pristine Temporal-Portal was littered with ash and splatters of blood, the shiny floor cratered from blaster shots. One display was still active. The Portal itself still whirred unevenly, but the time bubble had collapsed. They followed Ptah to the display. Taharqo grimaced seeing a dead Potacas lying in the doorway behind them. The small male was missing an arm. His environmental suit blackened where his arm had been. Looking at the display, seeing through transparent images, he saw a Tayamni female. She had no weapon, but lay where she was shot. She had been unarmed.
“Here,” Ptah said, playing footage. He pointed to a corner of the display. Cameras that normally focused on the Temporal Hoop were blasted. One camera still functioning was knocked ajar. They could see only a corner of the room. Groups of two and three Potacas were going to different time periods. A Tayamni female operated the console for them. How she was made to follow orders? A drug? Amun gasped when he saw them dragging Erish. She was unconscious. The aliens were dragged her with difficulty. At one point, they dropped her to the floor. One slapped the other, and pointed to Erish. Another bubble formed in the hoop, and they dragged her through.
Amun sighed, knowing this was foretold. They had not prevented it.
“Where did they go?” Taharqo asked.
Ptah began, “Three sets of logs. They fired on the core.” He looked at Amun and saw he looked at the female lying on the floor across from them. Ptah continued, “One group went to 3900 BCE, to Sumer. Another to your Sekhem, Captain. And, a third to medieval Europe.”
Amun looked at him with an aggressive expression, “We have to check the timeline. I feel changes.”
“So do I,” Taharqo nodded.
“We have to find Erish,” Amun growled.
Ptah saw Amun’s fists were clenched.
Taharqo looked around at the station and sighed, “We are too trusting.”
Taharqo held the communicator he retrieved from the Aldebaran out from his body, so Amun and Ptah could see the screen. “Play message,” he ordered.
They saw an image of Erish, her face drawn, “We can’t hold out,” she said. “…a new weapon.” She squinted her eyes, trying to focus on what was happening in front of her ship. “…drawing energy from the Sun,” she said, looking at a Chava crewmember next to her on the bridge. “It looks like a whip.” She shook her head negatively, as if she couldn’t believe her eyes. “Metallic devices, stationed at equal distances, forming a net.”
They couldn’t see the Chava standing next to her, but they heard her speak. “The technology is not efficient, dramatic but inefficient.”
“In other words, scary,” Erish added. “Look!” she said as she turned the device towards the display.
All they could see was a flash of light.
“Shields weakening, metallic cones, biological weapon, electron sheeting won’t last,” Erish added.
They heard another voice, male, standing close by. He offered, “Shields at 28 percent.”
Erish looked at the device hopelessly. “Don’t know what they are doing. We put all the energy in the shields; weapons down to nothing.”
“Captain,” the Chava crewmember offered anxiously.
Erish looked up at the display in front of her, her eyes wide, “Oh Goddess!” she shouted. The device stopped recording.
Amun looked at them. “Send this to Luna Station.” Then, he sighed, “No, Luna Station is gone. Send these data to the mothership at Mars.”
Amun turned around to look at damaged electronics behind him. “Ptah, keep shields activated, weapons drawn. Get help. You’re in charge of repairs and defenses. But, we may need you. See if you can find a ship.
Taharqo, you’re with me.” He turned and headed to the entrance.