Insula – Chapter 3: Charred

Source Allocate Facility level reached, the Ascender’s automated voice announced.

The doors parted, allowing Aloe to enter the facility. This area was mainly composed of a large storage-bay which on first glance appeared to stretch endlessly in all directions. Despite having very bright illuminants, their reach seemed to weaken once it met the ground, leaving many corners in shadows. Aloe often wondered how it even fit on the Insula.

The Ascender stopped at the second level onto a balcony, which provided an overhead view of the entire bay. Stairs hugged the walls and stretched down to the ground level. A third level, move of a walk-way, hovered above along the outer edges of the facility. On the ground, large metal containers were neatly stocked in groups on various palettes ready for transporting.

Aloe made her way down to the center floor to a set of lab tables. Many of them held display-panels similar to the Bridge with screens presenting different read-outs of data for inventory.

Aloe noted the surrounding tables covered with clear flasks containing many clumps of ore rocks. One table in particular had a small microscope with a large piece under its scope. She couldn’t help but shake her head with a smile, picturing Faa eagerly leaning over the scope to examine things. She was such a nerd when it came to this stuff. She often wondered if Faa had accepted this job as an excuse to conduct her personal research on things. It didn’t seem like a long shot given how lonely it was being down here and how much she enjoyed it regardless. Another table held a similar display. Yet, Aloe noticed a difference in a few others. The containers of those tables were covered in shattered glass, as well as the surrounding floor.

She scoffed. Way to keep your work space clear, sis, she thought.

“Faa?!” she called out, hearing her voice echo deep into the facility. Aloe hoped she was somewhere in the back, inventorying the lot. “Hey sis?!”

There was no answer.

She attempted her Caller – it was acting stubborn again with the screen turning off immediately upon activating it. Irritated, she banged it a few times on the side of a table which seemed to work. The screen flickered on.

“Faa where are you?” she spoke into it. “I need you back in the lab. There was something off about the report. Get here, ASAP.”

With no immediate response, she sighed. Probably went to the latrine, she thought. She decided to check out the reports and made her way to one of the display-panels. Luckily, Faa was more organized on here. The graphs she pulled up were similar to the ones viewed on the Bridge, yet more detailed. They openly referenced the unknown element referring to it as RE-00X.

Strange, she thought.

The double-zero was a special code to describe resources of a solid type. It was a broad term never really used until the element could be properly identified. Surely that couldn’t be the case here. There was nothing on that planet the system couldn’t already classify. She dug deeper pulling up other reports. The reports listed the presence of the element in small amounts slowly increasing up to now. Vexus! she thought. She knew about it. Faa had no reference to what it this thing was and still said nothing.

It was clear from the reports traces of it didn’t show up until yesterday, but Faa knew about it and didn’t say anything. More than likely, she was too caught up on studying it instead of reporting it.

Aloe turned on her Caller again. “Really Faa? You didn’t think I wasn’t gonna find out about your little side project? Vexus! What were you thinking?” she said, gritting her teeth. “Why didn’t you say anything? I could’ve informed Ven that it wasn’t ready yet. This is an Article 389 waiting to happen. Did you ever stop to think what would happen if this report had reached H.D.P.?”

She wanted to say more, but her anger garbled the words in her head. Instead, she ran her hands through her hair. This was sloppy of Faa, real sloppy. This could not only jeopardize Faa’s career, but she could face imprisonment for falsifying reports like this. It was one thing if it had been one, but several? Her and her vexing research. What had been so interesting that she’d go this far?

She returned her attention to the display-panel, searching among the files for an answer. She came across a folder marked as “RE-00X Analysis” – filled with audio files. However, they prompted a password to listen. She tried a few possible entries but they were all unsuccessful. With her sister the possibilities could be anything.

Aloe scoffed again, finally giving up.

“Faa?” she said into her Caller, feeling her anger begin to lighten up, “I’m heading back up. Ven was the one who noticed the report not me,” she explained, “honestly, I’m surprised he didn’t want to string you up after seeing it. He didn’t see everything though so you owe me covering for you… again,” she stated. She started to wonder if this should be the last time. “Fix the vexing report… all of them and then send them back to Ven corrected. Next time, keep your research away from the job or you’ll be out of one.”

As walked to the stairs, Aloe caught sight of something flashing in the distance. It was back near the wall – the pattern of flashing was oddly familiar. She made way over to it, noticing that it was coming from within the Igniter Chamber – a machine used to burn up waste residue from a clean-up. Inside the chamber, she found a clump of charred remains. Buried among it, she could see the flashing light.

She pressed a button on the panel to open the chamber, which sounded off with a loud beeping noise. Immediately, a horrible scent was released: her first thought was charred curdled milk. It flooded her nostrils down into her throat and scorched her eyes.

Disgusting was an understatement. She had been careless though, opening the chamber without checking the toxicity levels. Luckily, the last few pulls had nothing of the sort or else the system would have detected such. Faa obviously never got around to emptying out the chamber, which would’ve been an easy job for Eri.

Covering up her nose with one hand, she crouched down, fishing into the charred remnants, to retrieve the flashing object. It was heavily burnt, but it was still recognizable. It was a Caller – Faa’s Caller. The light continued to flash, indicating all the missed messages it had received.