24: AN ABYSS OF TROUBLES

We found the front entrance to the base unlocked.  Whoever had built it had not returned for some time.  The plants in the bio-dome were overgrown and unattended.  Though the water drip had kept them alive and healthy.  Kailo found a NipNip plant and cut off a bud piece and began nibbling.

“Good for health.  Most beloved.  Kailo already feels better,” Kailo said.  “Here, eat.” Offering both Aria and me a piece.  I took some for myself, but Aria refused.  “Maybe make GekNip if time permit.”

Though pungent, the NipNip bud did seem to sooth me, supporting Kailo’s insistence on the herb’s benefits.

A single computer terminal in the main base room was working but required a password.  Aria managed to hack into it quite easily.

“They were Gek.  This is written in Gek.  A journal.  The last entry was almost a year ago,” Aria said.

“What were they doing here?”  I asked.

“Not too sure.  Look, here are some entries.”  Aria began to translate sections of the journal she deemed important.

“Fell into anomaly; we don’t know where we are.”

“We spent the first few days setting up base camp inside crater.  The rest of the island is too dangerous.  Those trunk mound things are not dead—they came to life at night, almost killed us.”

“Oh great, and I touched one of them,” I said.

“Next time listen to me,” Aria warned.

She was right, I was being careless.

“Spirits are low and I’m trying to keep up morale. There are limited supplies for the three of us.”

“The crater’s properties are possibly magnetic.  There was an impact, possibly the moon scraped the planet.  Dislodging the rock with the giant tree.  On the opposite side of the tree most of the branches have been broken and are at the bottom of the crater.  The vines are what’s still holding it down, as if they reached for it.  Whatever caused it, it must have happened a very long time ago.  What’s amazing is how such an immense tree floating upside down is still alive.  And even more odd is why it’s the only one?  I think the vines are keeping it alive, but for what reason?”

Aria continued reading.

“Supplies are limited, so we’re growing food with what we can from the small seed bank we have with us.  Nothing else is edible on the island.  We’re setting up the submersible, there might be edible aquatic plants.”

“No edible plants in the lake, only vines drinking the water, but there’s a cave.  Will explore further tomorrow.  Companions disagree, say it’s too risky and won’t come along.  Do they prefer to starve?  I don’t understand them.”

“The cave is large enough for the submersible to fit through.  We had a heated argument.  Going alone.”

“Took the submersible into the cave.  It leads to the ocean, which is teaming with life.”

“Returned to base camp.  The other two left with the starship and cargo.  They abandoned me here.  I should never have trusted them.  Thieves!”

“Was woken this morning from large explosion.  Saw a freighter fall from the sky. It might have survived crash into the ocean.  Need to set up submersible for search and rescue, there might be survivors or valuables.”

“No survivors.” 

“Going back to the freighter for supplies.”

“Picked up peculiar sounds in the water near freighter. Thought I saw lights.  Could be precious resources.  Returning to investigate.”

Aria stopped reading.  “There are no more entries.”

“Well, that explains some of my questions, although it adds some new ones.  Those sounds and lights, do you think that’s what we’re looking for?” I asked.

“I don’t know, but if he did return to investigate, he obviously made it back here again.  How else do you explain why the submersible is still docked over there,” Aria said.

The three of us looked out across the pier at the submersible.

“Think we need check little Nautilon for missing explorer,” Kailo said.

“Nautilon?”

“All exocraft have common names,” Aria said.

We opened the hatch to the Nautilon.  For a moment I thought I could smell something odd.  But there was no one inside, it was empty.  If it had been sealed for a year that would explain the musty smell.

Aria entered first and turned on the power.

“The computer was set to return the Nautilon back here to the base if fuel was low.  It’s been sitting in this geobay ever since,” Aria said.  “Don’t know if that was the wisest thing to do, however.  What’s certain is the occupant has disappeared.”

“Which explains why it’s here if he didn’t return with the Nautilon,” I added.

“But where is missing explorer?” Kailo asked.

No one replied.

“All systems are working, coordinates for the freighter wreck are here, as well as a point of interest.  It could be the area of sound and lights mentioned in the journal,” Aria said, as she topped up the fuel.  “Let’s go.”

The seating was a little cramped, but we made do.  Kailo took the helm, while Aria turned on all the external lights and adjusted life support.

Kailo slowly manoeuvred the Nautilon to the bottom of the lake.  It was so dark we would have been unable to see anything without the lights.  From the outside, the Nautilon looked like a fat bumblebee with orange and blue markings.  It had a pair of antennas on the top like the insect it resembled.  Two robotic arms protruded from the bottom bow like a pair of dangling legs, each holding a flood light.  And a pair of little wings on the back-midsection sides for balance.  It was rather cute and practical for fitting into tight spots.

Nautilon

The lake was murky and difficult to manoeuvre through the clusters of mangled vine roots and giant petrified branches belonging to the tree.  Eventually, we found the entrance to the cave.  The Nautilon quickly whirred through the cave tunnel until it broke out into the deep twilight ocean.  The journal was right, the ocean was full of life.  Fish, plants, strange sea creatures, and stranger still was the endless carpet of green sea grass.  Kailo followed the directions Aria was giving him along a designated path near the seabed.  It felt as if we were gliding, as Kailo carefully avoided the spiky rocks below and the sudden cliff drops on either side.

We knew the sun was rising as more light filled the ocean.  The twilight soon vanished, only to be replaced with a profound elixir of blue, soothing our mood.

It grew very quiet in the cabin as we crossed paths with a giant marine creature, at least five times the size of the Nautilon.  It totally ignored us.

“Maybe has eaten breakfast.  Lucky us,” Kailo croaked with one eye glancing back.

“I can see something ahead.  It looks like a tower,” I said pointing slightly to the left.

Kailo gently turned towards the immense structure.  The tower side facing us gleamed like silver in the blue water as the sun’s rays fell on the metal walls. The other sides remained dark grey.  Surprisingly, a few emergency lights still burned blood red a year on, indicating the giant freighter’s misfortune.

“I don’t think we’ll find any survivors here,” Aria said.

She gave new directions and Kailo turned the Nautilon to the right.  We crossed over the hull of the freighter, witnessing the midsection had split in two.  Its final misfortune as it impacted the water.  There were several areas of the undercarriage where fuel had exploded, tearing apart the superstructure.  It must have looked hopeless for the crew as they tried in desperation to land it on water.  Maybe they had no other choice.

I heard Kailo sigh, felt his apprehension, as he wondered about his own crew and freighter.  Questioning if he’d ever see them again.

“We need to make another course correction here,” Aria instructed Kailo.

“What’s that noise?” I asked.

I felt a low vibration; was that some type of harmonics?  It seemed to be coming through the Nautilon’s walls from all directions.

Kailo was muttering something in Gek, while Aria ignored my question.  “Dive here,” she said.  “Can you see the trench ahead?  I want you to steer us into it.”

As the Nautilon dived into the trench the colour of the water changed from blue to dark green.  The sound changed too, becoming more melodic, more vocal and soothing.  I felt my body becoming numb and sleepy, but not in a bad way.  More in a forever way, not wanting the singing to stop but to go on endlessly.  The Nautilon was behaving strangely, Kailo seemed lost and disillusioned and had finally fallen asleep on his seat.  Aria pushed him away and took the helm.

Looking outside I could see we were moving through a garden of elongated kelp.  The sea grass was everywhere but the colours here were darker.  Strange little lights were glowing on and off around us like fireflies; reds, yellows and orange.  They were avoiding the exocraft’s flood lights, preferring to stay in the dark.  Aria was focused on what lay ahead and seemed oblivious to the effects of the sounds, and the fact that the kelp was swirling rapidly all around us, with the rhythmic pulse of sea serpents desperate to grab hold of the Nautilon.

“I need to go outside,” I suddenly said.  “This is all I want, there’s nothing else.”

Aria swung round and grabbed me as I reached for the escape hatch on the floor.

“Stop!” she cried.

I pushed her away and leapt into the water.


The Siren waits thee, singing song for song.
Walter Savage Landor