The Forge Region – Onirvura Constellation
15 July YC 121
The rift brought me to a huge pocket filled with strange structures. My immediate vicinity was called Logistic Depot and contained things like Remote Defence Grid Unit and Coordinate Plotting Devices. About 300 kilometres away from me were 3 sentry guns.
“What’s their range?” whispered I.
“Around 250 klicks,” said Aura in normal tone.
I realised that I was subconsciously trying to be inconspicuous although there was no way anyone outside the capsule could hear us talk.
Relaxing, I raised my voice, “Now, suppose I was in a properly fitted Heron. What would I do next?”
“The first task in Logistic Depot is to hack the closest Remote Defence Grid Unit.”
I waited for a few seconds and then made an impatient hand gesture showing that I expected more details.
Aura got my hint and continued, “If you succeed then one of the three sentry guns in the back area will be deactivated but another one near the Tractor Beam will become active.”
I frowned, “Near the Tractor Beam? That’s less than 250 klicks. Will it attack me?”
“No. 250 kilometres is the maximum range once it has started shooting at you but you need to be much closer to trigger the aggression.”
“And what if I fail to hack the Unit?”
“Each failure will raise the alarm level by one, starting from zero. If it achieves Level 5 then alarm will be tripped and Sleeper Engineering Stations will spawn everywhere and release the gas clouds that I have told you about,” explained Aura.
“So I have 5 attempts to hack the Unit?”
“At most. Other explorers reported that the alarm could be tripped at any level starting with Level 1.”
I bit my lip, “Shit. Sounds dangerous. On the other hand, you only live once, right?”
“In your and, for that matter, my case this statement may be incorrect,” objected Aura, “if you count a period of time between consciousness transfers as one life.”
“Even better then!” smiled I. “We have nothing to lose. Let’s see if that Defence Unit can defend itself.”
Aura propped her chin on her hand and sighed, “Boys will be boys.”
I pointed my Data Analyser at the RDGU and activated it. The node field I saw was very similar to the one in the Hyperfluct Generator. Hacking went pretty much normally: found an antivirus which blocked my path; started exploring a different route; opened a few empty nodes; found a firewall, killed it. And so I went until I uncovered a defence subsystem that I have not seen before – it looked like two square brackets with three lines radiating out of each one. As soon as Aura saw that node she screamed, “It’s a Restoration Node, kill it immediately!”
I followed her advice and it took me three hits to destroy that thing, while at each turn it increased the coherence of the anti-virus that I uncovered earlier. I was unlucky enough to encounter one more restoration node which I also killed as a priority but their combined efforts increased the coherence of the anti-virus to 140! I thought that if that subsystem defended the system core then the hack would definitely fail. Luckily, I found the core in a different location while my virus still had enough coherence points.
As soon as I hacked the Unit, one of the sentry guns in the Back Room went offline while another, near the Tractor Beam became active. I watched the new one suspiciously for a few moments and then asked Aura, “Now what?”
“The next task is opening a new spatial rift which leads to the Back Room. For that you’ll need to hack three Coordinate Plotting Devices and place coordinates obtained from them into the Remote Calibration Device – High Power,” explained Aura. Seeing that I was still expecting her to talk, she quickly added, “Failing the hack has the same effect as with RGDU – the alarm level will raise by one, and the alarm may be tripped at any time.”
“Are those Devices any harder than RGDU?”
“No, not really.”
“Cool, let’s try our luck once… sorry, thrice more,” chuckled I and flew to the nearest Coordinate Plotting Device.
All three hacks went smoothly, with my virus still having plenty of coherence each time I discovered the core. Soon I possessed data modules with X, Y and Z coordinates which I placed into the Remote Calibration Device. That had the same effect as hacking Hyperfluct Generator at the entrance – what looked like a perfectly normal spot of vacuum suddenly transformed into a hole in space and started pulsating enticingly.
I turned to Aura and asked, “Why do we need this rift? You said it would lead to Back Room, but it’s not in another pocket. Why don’t we simply fly to it?”
“That’s because pretty much all the time that you’ll spend flying you will be an easy target for the sentry guns,” replied she.
“And what would I be if I jumped straight to the Back Room where all those sentries are located?” I asked sardonically.
“The same,” admitted Aura, “but you will avoid a few hits that you would get if you just flew there, which may be enough, with an appropriate tank, to keep you alive until you get rid of the sentry towers.”
“With an appropriate tank…” I repeated thoughtfully. “You mean, if I jump through that rift…”
“…you can just as well self-destruct now,” finished my thought Aura.
I stared at the Cache. The treasures were just one jump away but they were as inaccessible as if they were in a different galaxy. Looking pleadingly at Aura, I asked, just in case, “Isn’t there anything else I can do in this pocket?”
She raised her brow, “You mean, apart from committing an unusual and expensive suicide? I am afraid not.”
I sighed and, throwing the last glance at the distant containers, warped back to the safe spot.