There was a sound like a crack of thunder and an almighty wind that almost blew him over he used his arms to cover his face and held tight to the rope he’d been using to climb out of the hole. The wind blew past, and the ringing in his ears died down, and Colin set about climbing the rope again. He looked down momentarily to check to see what was happening. Still, nothing seemed unusual, looking back up he saw Vivek climbing out of the hole, so Colin set about speeding up.
Getting to the surface, he saw a strange sight the scout ship above was wobbling as if in turbulence, Leah and Yori were flat against the ground, and Vivek was stood staring at the black sky.
“Case can you hear me?” Colin asked through the companion network.
“Busy!” The ship looked like it was about to drop out of the sky.
“Got it in hand?” The front dipped.
“Don’t know.” It jolted violently again.
“Gura, can you link with the ship’s systems?”
“Everyone keep down.” He looked left and right tall trees all around just as it had been, but something was amiss, he couldn’t place it.
“I’m helping with the stabilisation, the flight computer isn’t responding correctly,” Gura said a red exclamation mark above the cartoon sharks head.
“Case, Can you see anywhere to land?”
“There, wait, what the, yes!” With that the ship jerked forward-looking terribly unstable as it went, vanishing past the tree line he fully expected to hear it explode and he was running in the direction it headed, the other three followed him. After a few tens of seconds, they were out of the lush green forest and looking instead at a strange purple landscape. Bulbous podules scattered about the ground, substantial glowing white and blue plants that looked like a collection of snail antenna. Amongst the peculiar landscape the ship had managed to land, the four of them stood there and looked around dumbfounded looks on their faces. In the darkness, they could see a milky white stream running passed where the ship had set down illuminated both by the crafts running lights and their own suits lights. He looked up at the sky again, it was a dim purple and orange colour strange and swirling like there was a sky above the sky.
“I have mixed feelings about what we are seeing,” Vivek said a mute touch of panic into his voice. He was holding his hands out either side of himself knees squat as if he was trying to keep his balance.
“You’re telling me,” Leah who was looking up at the sky added,
“Has everyone got their helmets on?” Yori asked, for a moment, Colin and Vivek looked at one another, and they gave each other the thumbs up.
“Looks like it,” Colin said, walking towards the ship.
“We’ll have to use the airlock and decontamination entrance.” Leah groaned.
“That we will. Everyone see if we can find out where the hell we are.”
“Let’s get into the ship, we’ve got no idea what could be going on,” Yori was walking at speed towards the ship and looked back to double-check they were all on the move, “hurry up!”
Once in the ship they went through the decontamination process, they were sprayed down in disinfectants, solvents, heat rays and radiation sweeps designed to kill anything that could have been on their suits and one by one they joined Case in the cockpit of the ship.
“How you doing Case?” Colin asked as he reclined in a seat.
“Fine, I’ve managed to get the navigation computer back online, but it’s not much use, and my companion hasn’t’ found anything either.”
“Not a thing.” Leah.
“Well, that’s a problem.”
“Yeah, if none of our companions nor the ship’s systems can pinpoint where we are yet then we’re not anywhere we should be.” Yori frowned and sunk into her seat, a unique look of concern on her face.
“Have we managed to analyse any of the data from that anomaly that hit us?”
“I’ve got the ship’s computer running an analysis, my companion’s giving it a look as well.” Case tapped her finger next to the orb that housed her companion the intricate patterns on the outside, giving off the impression that Case had heavily modified it.
“I’d never seen anything like it, that weird machine, the fox thing, nor the writing.”
They ran the feed from the scout ships external cameras, seeing the expanding bubble for the first time as it had passed so quickly they couldn’t see it.
The computer reran the scene several times. Colin made a face and then looked at the others.
“Could it be some kind of jump field?” He asked, resting his chin on his forefinger and thumb, he looked at Case.
“It doesn’t look like any I’ve read about or seen simulated,” she tilted her head and watched it again.
“But it’s the only thing that makes sense right?” Yori added and sat up, straightening her jumpsuit.
“Yeah, yeah it is,” Case turned to a computer console and started tapping buttons and watched as information spooled past the screen.
“Hey, maybe it’s all giant joke?” Vivek offered.
“Even if it were, we’d need to act like it wasn’t like being a brain in a jar. I’m going to check the medical supplies” Leah stood up and headed out of the cockpit.
“If it brought us, the trees and the ship do you think it came through as well?” Yori asked a look on her face like she was now running the numbers.
“It would only make sense, Vivek and me did err materialise in the same passage we were in before.”
“I think our guess is right,” Case tapped some buttons on the console, and a simulation appeared on the screens, numbers, lines and, waves the group watched them for several minutes.
“Pretty advanced stuff,” Vivek said nodding.
“Yeah, but those definitely look similar to a jump ships signatures when she’s making an Ohno-Asimov bubble.”
“Not the same though.”
“No, worryingly definitely not the same.”
They all sat in silence for what felt like forever.
“Let’s check the status of the ship’s supplies, send up a drone and launch an orbital satellite see if we can’t figure out where we are both on the planet and in space.”
The others all set about checking the ship’s systems until dinner time where they sat in the small but comfortable lounge that they had been sharing for the past two weeks. The conversation had bounced back and forth, and a sense of excitement mixed with confusion and a touch of fear permeated everything. Vivek grinned and joked, Leah joined in but let her serious side through now and again, Case was mostly absorbed in the data around the anomaly, Yori was flicking through stellar cartography records. Colin joined in with the conversation until eventually, Leah went to sleep, Vivek not far behind. Case and Yori a half hour or so later leaving Colin alone nursing a cup of tea.
He wondered to the cockpit and looked out of the windows into the strange swirling night sky, now the sky wasn’t just a bit alien, it was completely unknown, there was no moon in the sky, and the satellite they’d sent up indicated that there wasn’t one at all even stranger the planet was in some kind of a gas cloud which was why the sky looked so strange. The planet’s atmosphere was an unpleasant soup, fortunately not corrosive or particular hazard to the ship but if they’d of arrived without their suits, Colin paused the thought and put it to one side. They did have their suits on, and they had their helmets activated, at the end of the day they were well trained. He leant back and rocked from side to side for a while thinking about what they’d have to do, wondering what they could do if the device wasn’t below them and they couldn’t just jump back to Lava-227-4.
“Can’t sleep?” Yori’s voice came from the entrance.
“Oh, hey, I didn’t hear you come in.” He turned the chair to face her. She was leaning against the frame of the door arms crossed across her stomach. She slid into a seat and sighed. “It’s not like I can’t sleep, I just had a lot to think about.”
“Yeah. I can relate.” She looked up and through the window.
“We just need to keep our heads on what we need to do, he held out his hand and started counting off fingers, check our current state, go check the hole and see if the machine is there and if we can reactivate it, if not check the system and perform a full survey.” He leant back and smiled, he could see that she had a twinkle in her eye.
“It’s the real thing, right? We’re not just brains in a jar?”
“As Leah so rightly pointed out, it doesn’t even matter if we are.”
“One step at a time, just like we were taught.”
“One step at a time.”
“Well, I think I can get to sleep now.” She looked away, a slight blush to her cheeks, and headed out.
“Good to hear.”
“See you in the morning, I wonder what it’ll be like.”
“Cold.” He watched her as she left, she waved a hand over her shoulder, and he turned back to the windows again. Then he followed her to bed.