“Ya’ve come a long way, lad,” Lester noted as the doors to the Ascender opened upon their arrival to the S.A.F lab. “I was wonderin’ when ya’ were goin’ to make a move. Thought I’d have to do it for ya’,” he joked.
“Was it that obvious?” Lenio asked, turning red again.
“Aye, the whole vexin’ crew could see it,” Lester replied with a wide grin. “Well, apparently everyone, but the good doctor.”
“Yeah, congrats, Lenio,” Aloe chimed in.
She tried to maintain the cheerfulness they had exhibited earlier. Yet the moment the Ascender began to drop, her stomach joined it. She couldn’t help but feel unsettled to return to the very area where Faa had died – where her own life had been threatened. For a moment, she regretted volunteering, but she felt like if she didn’t face it now, there was no way she could do it later.
They cautiously checked the outside, ensuring it was safe before walking out of the Ascender onto the Balcony.
“Sweet Zaile’s light!” Lester exclaimed, admiring the sight. “It’s been a rough minute since I’ve been down here.” He paused, scratching his brow. “Actually, I don’t recall ever bein’ down here.”
“Let’s move, there’s no time to waste,” Aloe said, sharply. She didn’t mean to sound rude, but she was anxious. She didn’t want to linger any longer than they needed to.
She guided them down the stairs and over to the lab tables.
“The file name is: RE-00X Analysis,” she stated, awakening the display screen.
Lester cracked his knuckles. “Alright sweetheart, let’s see what I can do with this.”
He began to type away, prompting new windows to pop-up filled with gibberish looking commands.
“I’ll try taking a crack at the Pulsator,” Lenio brought up, gesturing to the device that was still on the ground.
Aloe barely acknowledged him though. Instead, she found her eyes drawn back over to the Igniter Chamber. Against her will, her legs began walking towards it. With each step, she felt her heartbeat increase – hearing the beating grow louder as it resonated in her ears.
Images of the event flashed through her mind – she could feel the fear that consumed her in that moment, the heat from inside the chamber, and smell the charred pieces of burnt flesh, even taste it.
She felt that weight of hopelessness drape over her again like a veil.
The face of the creature was visible to her, wearing hers like a mask, smiling devilishly like life itself meant nothing to it – ready to extinguish hers like a candle.
“I’m sorry, Aloe,” a voice said to her.
She winced, being pulled her from trance. Aloe realized that she was no longer walking but now standing before the Igniter. The voice belonged to Lenio, who was standing off to the side. He had his head down.
“It’s my fault about Faa,” he continued.
“W-what –” she started to say, but he went on.
“When the accident happened, I didn’t know what to think or… e-even how to. I remember seeing something strange with earlier but…” his words started to trail off.
Tears were now forming in his eyes.
“I’ve keeping a lot of anger inside me,” he continued. “Didn’t really think anyone one on this ship really cared about me – that people were just taking advantage of me. ‘Yeah, we’ll get Lenio on it, he’ll always do it without a second-thought’,” he took a second to pause. “So much was going on in my head, but like I always do, I kept it bottled-up inside me.”
He wasn’t making any sense. Aloe was wondering where he was going with this.
He sighed. “If only I had said how I felt once in a while,” he continued, “it wouldn’t have gotten this bad. I could have said something to someone, but like the coward I was – am, I kept it in me and didn’t.
“If I had gone to you or the Chief about what I felt then maybe I would’ve spoken my mind more and maybe – maybe then I would’ve said something and she wouldn’t have died.” He turned his head away in shame. “I thought something was off about that accident with Faa. I saw something but I didn’t say anything. I-I’m so sorry, Aloe. Faa’s death was my fault.”
Aloe felt tears of her own eyes forming, but she kept them at bay. “Look at me, Lenio,” she said, softly. “Lenio?”
After wiping his eyes, he turned to her.
“Faa’s death couldn’t have been prevented,” she stated. “She would’ve been gone even if you said something or not. There was no time to save her. And don’t ever say you’re a coward because you saved me. You could have ran away but you came back for me, and I never got to thank you for it. So thank you.”
He was struggling to choke back more tears, but rendered a smile. Despite saying those words to him, Aloe felt like they were more for herself. She had been blaming herself for Faa’s death more than anyone. If her Caller hadn’t malfunction…No! It couldn’t be helped now.
“Thanks, Corporal,” Lenio said.
“Hey, I did it!” Lester exclaimed from behind. “I’m in!”
The two looked at each other – wiping away the last signs of sorrow before heading over to him.
“Took a vexin’ minute, but I’ve got it opened, ya’ see,” Lester said, clicking on the file.
Inside the folder were four audio clips.
“Let’s see what we can find out about this thing,” Aloe said, playing the first clip. “Help us out, Sis.”
RE-00X Analysis Clip 1
Okay, this is Faa Muri, first examination of the strange specimen found in the containers of RE-20 extracted from PL-0490.
Specimen appears to be a fossil – an ancient insect, by the looks with an unknown origin – although it does hold a similar appearance to the Cicadoidea family.
I would need to further examine it, but I would say this thing is well off around a thousand years old, maybe more. It was buried with the ore, suggesting that PL-0490 was habitable at some point. *Sigh* Even after all the years of traversing through space, this is the first discovery of the presence of life outside of New Spes. Amazing…
Its texture resembles the ore composition – measuring around *Pause* 20 cm. Of course, this could be a result of fossilization over the years, but it’s unsure at the moment. More to follow later.
End of clip.
“Well, that was pretty informative,” Lester said, interrupting the silence. “An insect though? Where’s the bug-spray?” he joked.
Aloe gave him a salty look, prompting the next audio clip:
RE-00X Analysis Clip 2
This is Faa Muri, continuing examination of the strange specimen. Due its composition, I’ve elected to call it RE-00X since I can’t really classify it just yet beyond its solidified nature.
I do have an update though. I found more of the specimen filling up one of containers completely – fifty to be exact. I think we’ve picked up an entire colony by the looks of it. I’ll keep my eyes open for more. Also, I wanted to note that I found several chunks of something entirely new encased within some ore. The system’s database recognized it as: amber – fossilized tree sap.
If this is the case, then this is truly an amazing discovery! Not only is there proof that insects existed on another planet outside our system, but it confirms the existence of plants as well! It’s safe to say these insects fed off the sap. It doesn’t seem like a long shot considering they resemble the likeness of our Cicadas – so I believe they had the same diet. Although being extraterrestrial, it is unsure that is completely the case. More to follow.
End of clip.
“So, it’s basically just alien bugs then? Are we all on the same page on that?” Lenio stated. “But why attack us then? What does it want?”
RE-00X Analysis Clip 3
This is Faa Muri, continuing examination of RE-00X.
This is amazing! The insects appear to be reacting – they’re not dead! I think they were just dormant. If so, it means they have the ability to preserve themselves even in a state where they survive fossilization. It’s incredible, but I’m not sure how it’s possible given any normal living thing could never survive these conditions. It must have something to do with their cellular structure.
*Humming in the background*
Yes, that has to be it! At first, I thought maybe they were just fossilized into ore, but in fact, they were replicating it! It must be how they persevered themselves. Cicadas are known to camouflage as a strategy to avoid predators. They also spend most of their development underground up to 17-years but this – this is on another level! I’m going to try and feed them the amber to see what kind of reaction they incur. More to follow.
End of clip.
Nobody had anything to add this time. Aloe played the last file:
RE-00X Analysis Clip 4
*Very loud Humming in the background*
This is astounding! They appear to be reacting very well to receiving just a few pieces of amber! I’ve put it away to keep them from getting too excited, but I think…
*Loud humming mixed with the fluttering of Wings*
End of clip.
“That’s it?” Lester asked, checking the clip. “What just happened?”
“Sounds like that’s how they escaped,” Lenio suggested.
Aloe glanced over to the lab table covered with glass. “Yeah,” she agreed, “but I don’t think that’s when they attacked her.”
Lenio shook his head. “No, I don’t either because I remember seeing the broken glass when I came down to help her.”
“I don’t think these things have a real purpose like we originally thought either,” Aloe added. “They’re just… surviving, doing what they normally do.”
“But how does this help us?” Lester inquired stiffly. “It still killed Faa. Sure, we know what the vexin’ things are, but how to we kill it? Especially, if it can hide easily. I’m not chasin’ around for it, ya’ can bet ya’ a*s.”
“Maybe we won’t have to,” Aloe replied, regarding the surrounding tables.