Written in 365 Parts: 196: The Passage

They reached the main corridor that, according to the schematics, contained the entrance portal to the bridge. They had moved swiftly, but cautiously, but they had not seen any other signs of life or movement. Marsh had a growing sense of unease and knew that it was shared by Drick. There was a tenseness to their movements, a quick darting look to the eyes. 

As they had ascended the stairs, or ramps, from one floor to another, passed each doorway, entered each new corridor, Drick had taken extensive forward readings. Each time the movement and heat sensors had shown nothing. There was a little movement from automated systems such as air control. They thought they detected a small device that may have been a maintenance robot. But nothing else. It was eerily empty.

Drick carried an assortment of small devices and nano drones that kept up a watch or pattern of surveillance around them. The drones were undetectable to all but the most sophisticated system. They primary purpose was the passive sensors that relayed if electromagnetic sensors were detected. This would help prevent Drick and Marsh walking into a sensor’s field of view.

The other instruments picked up laser, sonar, pressure, air-movement, thermal and broad spectrum electromagnetics. There was a small drone that followed the other nano-machines which mapped terrain, it could scan for classic physical detection and alterations such as two way mirrors or spy holes.

This assortment of checks made the progress painfully slow whenever they approached a new corridor or intersection. They moved swiftly along otherwise. The constant waiting then rushing to the next safe point was making Marsh’s insides knot with tension. However, he said nothing and watched as fervently as Drick did the readouts and displays. Scanning for any discrepancy.

They had arranged a series of commands that could be given via helmet touch or slight hand signals. These even included some simple question and answer responses. Drick’s movements had repeatedly indicated caution. There seemed little need as the ship was empty, maybe it was devoid of life. But, what was the other ship, the supply shuttle, doing then? Was it bringing personnel, or taking them away? Did it have anyone living on board?

The corridors slowly changed from plain, utilitarian, functional design to a more pleasing series of curves. Doorways were inset in the forward section and had soft rounded sections. There was subtle lighting under the floor and from hidden recesses overhead. The emitted  light was a mixture of muted pastels to offset the harsh standard light cells that still lined the wall sections.

The corridor that led to the bridge itself had large semi-holographic panels as wall and ceiling plates. It was a living painting, or environment that could obviously be programmed to display an infinite variety of images.

As they entered this passage the ceiling resembled a sky and the walls showed a nature scene with a fine level of detail that was so real only the scale and lack of other sensory data said it was an image. They were suddenly immersed in an almost three hundred and sixty degree video view. 

Marsh studied the scene. Impressed by the fidelity of the image, as he drew closer subtle sounds and smells were replicated. But the imagery also contained oddities that were too unusual to be haphazard. Elements that did not fit the tone of the idyllic scene. They were oddities. They had to be placed by a computer algorithm, of this there was little doubt, but for what purpose?

In the countryside scene he could see a cottage, stark white against the rolling greenery. A patchwork of fields spread behind it and a small, well tended garden to one side. There was a scene outside the front door, which was blue with rusted hinges. There was a table and two stools, on the table a robin with a bright red breast was trapped in a gilded cage, it fluttered about in quick darting movements. Looking through the cage bars Marsh could see the only dark clouds in the sky reflected on the floor.

There were more birds nearby. A small dove-house, filled with doves and pigeons, was resting under a giant sycamore tree. The white and grey plumed birds flew in and out, or perched on its roof and rails. The weight of them seemed to make the flimsy wood and wire structure shudder as they took off and landed.

At the gate, in a wall that was mostly tumbled rocks, was a dog. It looked like a mongrel, brown and gangly with its starved ribs showing clearly. Near to this dog was a road and in the distance a cart with a horse. A figure could be seen with a raised stick beating the horse roughly. Blood sprayed, but not from the horse, with each strike blood came from the person. There were other birds in a nearby forest where dawn was slowly breaking.

Marsh was mesmerised by the scene, it was familiar in some way, as if he had read something similar in a book, or maybe seen this in a film somewhere. A memory of his mother’s face flicked into his mind. That was the strangest sensation as he knew it wasn’t his mother. It was the real Marsh’s mother. His mother birthed a clone.

Drick seemed to pay no heed to the strange images being projected onto the walls and ceiling. They moved quickly down this corridor towards the doorway at the end. They passed two other doors that were closed. Drick checked them for signs of movement or use. Then they placed a device on the door to warn them if it opened and moved on to the bridge doors.

The entrance to the bridge was a large airlock set into a main bulkhead. This vessel was a series of large compartments. Each one could be separated from the rest of the ship. Isolation to restrict damage from one section affecting another. Compartmentalisation for purpose and ease of construction. Autonomy, allowing sections to be dismantled one at a time without destroying the function of the whole. A testament to purpose, a deep regard to safety.

This section could be separated from the rest of the ship. Sealed or discarded in the event of a cataclysm. It also helped with the eventual ship’s function as a space port during colonisation. Any section could be used as a command section while the others were disassembled for reassembly on the surface or utilised as orbiting platforms. 

This design, while impressive, did present them with the problem of needing to bypass a security airlock that was structurally sound before gaining access to the bridge beyond.

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