Reality

Chapter 13: Lost and Found

"Douglas?" Rain was worried. "Douglas, answer if you can hear me." Silence. "DOUGLAS!" Erik put his hand on her shoulder. "Crying doesn't help. He would have answered if he could." He turned around to the crowd. "White, guard the com. And tell us if anything happens."

A male Ettin with fur as white as snow went to the microphone. "All right, Sir."

Reluctantly Rain followed Erik to a screen nearby. Pointing at some graphs he started to explain. "Look, we've lost audio contact. However, the sensors in his suit still seem to be working. This line shows his heartbeat and this one is for breathing. Seems to be weak, but we still get signals. His body temperature is at 34C but stable. It's normally 37C. But the most interesting is this one. It monitors his brain activity. If he'd been a Norn or an Ettin I'd say he's dead but his physiology is different from ours. We are either highly active or dead. But remembering the similarities with the Shee genome I looked into the ship's medical database. The part for Shee. I found an entry describing a similar state called "coma". Something like a deep sleep if I get it right. And all data seems to be stable. But we could get problems with the energy..."

"What's the matter with it?"

"The energy pack seems to be broken. It's running on auxiliary power..."

"And how long has he got?"

"About 7 and a half hours."

"And we can't get out to fetch him."

There was a long pause. Finally Rain spoke: "Set up a timer and try to find a solution."

"All right Rain.", and then turning towards the others he added "All lead engineers to me. White, get someone to take over the microphone."

Hours passed by. "He's moving." a female Norn shouted. Erik and Rain looked at the screen in bewilderment.

"You said he's kind of asleep. Is he sleepwalking?" Rain finally asked.

"No, that's impossible. No way he's walking."

"The positioning signal is gone." the Norn shouted again.

"And we don't have any other data either, Silk."

Erik answered her. "Can anyone tell me what is going on?" Rain demanded.

"No, you see..."

Erik was interupted by Silk. "The signal - it's back. It's in a different place but obviously the same signature."

"Where?" Rain asked. Erik was looking at the screen Silk had pointed to and couldn't say a word. Well, it took him some time to convice himself that he wasn't seeing ghosts.

"Do you remember the legends about the Lower Engineering?" Generations of Norns and Ettins told their children the story about the Shee leaving the "Albian Explorer". Anyone knew the tales about the Shee sealing the Lower Engineering before they did. The place of ultimate power, the place Ettins called "God's Lab". Of course you can't rely on such stories, but there's a little bit of truth in most of them. And it's a good example of what happens to a culture seperated from their roots by uncounted numbers of miles. There had been people on board who had said that they were only legends, and started to investigate. They found a narrow passage which couldn't be found on a single map, and there was evidence that it lead to the area where the Lower Engineering should be. Unfortunally, nobody to go into it was ever seen again - and the "Haunted Path" was added to the legend.

"I have it on the map, and the origin of the signal is in the middle of it." Erik said.

"Say that again."

"He's in the Lower Engineering. And we have to find him quickly as he's still in - coma? - coma, right." Rain shook her head. "No way. I'm not going into the Haunted Path. No way."

"I'm afraid we don't have another chance. And I don't want to go there either."

Chapter 14