Misha sat in LEGIONS cockpit. It was a bit cramped, and rather warm, just the way he liked it. Well more room would have been nice, but theres only so much that can be done. For now. There where possibilites of extradimensional storage but the research had barely gotten further then thinking about it while watching Dr. Who. A dim red light illuminated the control panels before him. He glanced at the datascreen to his left. Internal radiation levels where still stable, clock was counting off only another twelve hours to go. " Siri, please alert me if the radiation levels go up."
“Alert already set.” Said Siri.
Checking the radiation levels again, just for good measure, Misha went back to staring out the window, completely hypnotized by the eerie blue glow of Cherenkov radiation leaking off the Temelin 2 reactor core.
“Alright, LEGION has been fully checked out for vacuum exposure, radiation exposure, and the re-oxygenetion system is fully functional. You’ve gone over everything yourself, are you satisfied with the preparations?” Karel asked Misha.
Misha nodded, and sat in the exposed seat of LEGION. Machinery hummed, and the seat slid forward, the wall behind him sealing shut. Lights flickered on, the control board lit up. “Siri, give me a system check.” he said, as he scanned all the systemks himself. Everything looked good, and a moment later Siri confirmed as much too. Flicking the cams over, to see his suroundings. LEGION was strapped in a makeshift support structure replacing the warhead on a russian ICBM missile. The coms crackled to life. “Comrade Legion, prepare for ignition in 15 seconds.” came a russian voice. Karel would be back in the control room observing the progress of the mission. Take-off was the russians responsibility. Space work would be mostly him with a a link to moscow for their experts should he require their input. The thoughest would be de-orbiting, the russians had agreed to allow assistance from the Vatican, though nothing was to be divulged about the missions true purpose. The fine calculations required to sync up for re-entry would be handled by the Vaticans Archangel super computer, guided by the skilled and tallented… and atractive, Torricelli’s Trumpet. Re-entry would still be tricky. This whole thing better be worth it. And of course General Jelinek would be standing by with his people and making sure the Russians didnt try anything funny. At first he had worried the general would oppose the mission, but he had been quite quick to accept it. A good man, quite dedicated to the country, and a good general. He must see significant advantage in having the Russians owe us. America hadnt exactly been playing nice with anyone recently, well except maybe Israel, and by the generals own words “The Eurpoean Union is a walking corpse just waiting to fall over.”
Misha closed his eyes and swalowed. Just then, a dull roar more felt then heard, begun to vibrate everything around him. He swallowed again, and his insides dropped into his boots.
Space… a star ocean, a dark tapestry decorated with tiny droplets of light. It was so beautiful… Siri floated past his head. He quickly grabbed her and clicked her into the dock. Scanners showed the ICBM that had carried him this far receading in the distance, enroute to impact somewhere in northern Syberia, a failed weapons test. He clicked the comms. “ROSCOSMOS, this is LEGION. Orbit achieved. Prepared to recieve telemetry.” His voice would come out the other side suitably mechanized. A moment later, Siri buzzed and fed the MageDrive co-ordinates. It would take a couple jumps to get there… He glanced at the power output levels more out of habit then anything else and blinked. The display was displaying an error, integer out of bounds. If something was wrong… he glanced at Siri’s display. The earths gravity well was starting to draw him in. No time to debug, if he gained too much velocity before making contact with P-G… He hit the activator, and suddenly the planet bellow shifted. The energy display was still errored out… and none of the lights as much as dimmed. Odd.. could the display not actually be glitched? “Siri… prepare for Jump directly to Phobos-Grunt. Over-ride distance restrictions.”
“Understood… Over-ride initiated.”
The world shifted and the Russian ship popped into existence in-front of LEGION. Not even a flicker in the power. One more microjump, and he grabbed hold of the hull. After a moment the thrusters on the ship fired, accounting for his slight impact. So at least some part of the ship was still working.
“Siri, begin diagnostics of target.”
“Diagnosing… Failure to communicate, ship is responding with gibberish.”
“Alright.” Misha sighed. Of course it wouldn’t be easy. He pulled up the blueprints. “Lets take a look at the transmission array.” Another microjump, and the transmission array came into view. It was half deployed, jammed, and twisted. This would require some work. He thumbed a few keys, and reconnected with the Russians ground base. “Target has been reach. Damage to transmission array evident. I am transmitting video and preparing repairs.”
There was a moment of silence, and then, “ROSCOSMOS receiving video. Proceed with repairs.”
Misha nodded, though they could not see him. A scan of the jumble of twisted supports and servos quickly revealed this was no accidental damage. There was obvious blast marks, someone or something had rigged the array to go boom when it activated. “Siri, keep an eye out for anyone approaching us. Even if it looks like just junk I want to know about it alright?”
“Of course. Sensors at maximum. Alerts set.”
It took hours, the array had to be disassembled, damaged components had to be repaired, or replaced. At least there was sufficient parts to be gathered from the old pieces of debris floating around in orbit. Eventually, the transmission array was clear and intact. LEGION reached out and turned a crank normally concealed under one of the external panels. The array slowly receded into the hull. He reversed direction and it slid out again. Thank the gods for the Russians manual over-rides. “RSOCOSMOS do you receive? Array has been repaired, attempting to open communications with crew.” He barely waited for their response and switched channels to the ships frequencies. “Siri, please get a status report from the onboard systems.”
Siri blinked, and the transmission light started flashing. Text popped up on the screen.
̷̜̳̳̇̏M̧̨̗̠̈͌̃̓̐ͭ̕A̴͍̣͖̲͛͐͌ͧ̎́ͬ̏͟͝I̝͕̎̾̄ͤ͑̐̚N̴ͤ̽̽̑͛̂͂͌҉̞̲̜̱ ̛̰̫̣̱̻̥̀̋̓ͦ̚̚S̭͉̙͎̝͛̐͛̃ͨ͑̇͆͢Y̧̝͖͕̣̺̝͕̣͙͂̉̆̉ͤͧ̊̎͟S͙̗̗̱͕̼̪͇̍̄͆ͪ̈́ͭ̿ͫT͚̻̱̠̝͉ͨͫ̋̃̑͊̂ͤ̆E̵̛̫̩ͫ͐M̸̴̱̬͈͇̳͚ͯͅS̤̟͕͇̹ͪ̈̅͆ͣ:͔͎͔̞̘̳̗͗̓̐̌͋̀̚͝ ͕̤̒ͭȌ̘̞͎͙̳̠̠ͬͯF̞̻̼̲ͧ̄̒ͧͩ́͠F̸̜̩͚̪̝̮̤̪ͬͫ̐͛͗L̢͈̱͇̟̐̈̌́̕Ï̩̙̠͙͚̻͍͗̓̾́N̽̔̎҉̵̢̥̹̹͙È̗̩͈͚̣̾̓ͦ̐̐̕ ͙͈̗͍̲̰̣ͤ̃̌ͦ̏ͭ͡
̵̶̠̖͙͇̻̞̉̏̌̌͜S̖̩̟͇̩͍̼̈ͩ̽͂̔̅͘Ě̸͖̟̱̤͎̹̲͆̌̈́ͪͪ̽C̮̟͉̘ͣ́͡O̥ͯͣ͛͊N̶̯̦ͧͫ̓ͪ͗ͯ̿D͈̟̤̤͇̳́͡Ä̔͏̗͎ͅR̠̫̮͕̭̫̣͕̂̑̏͐͊̈̇Y̢̜̙̥̟̯̜̓͌ͭ̽ͭ͌ͫ͢ ̱̖͕̭̄͆ͯ̑ͤ̐ͪͯS͋ͮ̓ͭ͗ͬ҉̠̼͔̳͓͇̺̤Y͖͈͕̊̋̉̿͑ͤ͝͠S̴̸͖̣͇̑̑ͨ͋̆̾͟Tͨ̐҉̦̯̣̞͇̰̝̞E͈̤̞̻̩͑́ͮͮ̎M̶̵͈̟̋ͮ̑̄ͦͤͯ̏ͧ͝:̛̠͚̤͚͖̂́̚ͅ ̲͙̳̰̲̙̔͂͐̽̄̉Ỏ̵͇̙͇̃̊͠Ṉ̸̪͕͑͂ͭ̍͛͘͟ͅL̺̲̹͔̠ͦ̔ͬ̃̎́ͯ̋͜I̥̺͖̬͆̀̚ͅŅ̷̼̟̯̣̩̻̰͚̂͆E̢̥̺̞̥͈͔̪͔̠̔̀̍̊͢
̨̜̹̦̹͉̜͚̙̎̂͑̍̿̏̉ͮL̪̤̙̜͚͖̩̮̽̌͆ͮͪ̉̾̎͟I̞̅͠F͙̓ͭͩ̕E̫̠͇͊̊̒̇͛̾͆͜ ̷̯̰̹͍̌ͦ̍ͧ̑ͤ̈́͝Š͕͎̐̏̍̀͠͞ͅÙ̴͙̞̭̘̩ͧ͌ͨͯ̌͠ͅP̛̪̙̟̀̓͌̌̐͡P̵̼̃ͫ̇͞O͖̭̦͈͚̐̄̐͋̊ͧͅRͭ͂͋҉̛͏̫͎T̢͓͖̼͙͇͍̓͌ͨ̔̈̂ͯͣ́̚:̲̙̮̩͖̟̣̦̍ͥ͑̑͒̅̽̕ ̸̟̪̎̎̓̋̾̽O̭̠̮̯͍̟̪̩͋͆ͫ͆̃͡F̪̮ͮ́͂̾͆̊ͧ̕͡Fͮ͊͒ͦ҉͔͎͙͕L͓͓̻͖̒̈́̽͛ͤ̾̑͞I͈͇͕̻̙͓̟̙͇ͣ͌͜N̩̱̻̞͒̀̅͂̾͒ͨͮ̈́Ȩ̺͔̲̖͆̃̎̋̽͜
͙̼̦̮̺͇͗͌̌M͊͆̋̓҉̻̠̹͢ͅÂ̘ͫͦ̄͢I̡͍̮̫̲̩͍͍̯̒ͬ͋͟͢N̵̵̥̅͋͊ͯ͑͝ ̨̻͙̋́̂̌͡͞E̩̞͎̬̼̎͒̚N͙̬̻̱̲̠͑͗̅ͮ̓ͪͭ͗͘G̴̩̱̫̜̥̫ͧ̀ͧ́I̗͍ͥ̋̏̔̀͜Ṋ̥̜̯ͬͨ̎͘E̴̡͇̫̖͕̘̭ͥ̔ͥ͒͠Ș̴̳ͧͬ̄͛͠:̦̞̤̩̳͔̯̭̔̅ͭ̂͠ ̬͍̦̞̏ͩ͐͊ͧ͝͠O̷̵̸̮̘ͭ̈́̅͒ͧ͗ͮF̧̰̘̞̖ͮ̓͆̃ͦͧ̃ͨ͂F̦͓͕̙̗̖̪͊̋͌̄͊ͣ͊́͠L͌͗͐ͨ̆͏̠͈͎̬̙̺Į̖͕̜̦̩̙̳͉͛̂͘N̗̺̐ͅȆ͋̈҉̥̺̼͘
̴̢ͤ̋͗͒ͤ̓̚͏̫͕̘͙ͅN̫̟̞̮̯͌̎̌ͥͥ̑͢͠Ą̤͈̱̰̫̩̋ͤͥͬV̵̖̩͉̙̊̿́I̠̬͍̦ͯ̏̋ͪ́̐ͫ͋̓̀͟͠Ǧ̱̙̙̳̝͗ͭͅA̞̜̞̗̼͙̗ͯͪ̏̑͞ͅT̨͎̙̟͈̥̿̊̽̉͋̎̐ͩ͑͞Ǐ͐ͬ͏̧̧̺͈̲̫Ǫ̡̳͓̣̝́ͬ̑͆̊͋ͪN̷̦͖͇͕̏̈́ͦ͐ ̮̼̜̃̐͡E̡̍̓̀̅̂͗̄͏̠͇̦̖̩͓͈̲̼̕N̬̰͇̣̻͓̳̾ͯ́G͔̤̥̻̩̓̔̌̂ͯ̃ͤ͛͢͞Į͍͈̃̓͜͝N̶̻̱͍̮͖͍̘̅̓E̫̗̘͖̋ͮͦͅS̶͙̞͉̪͑̍ͤ͂̽͌ͬͥ͌:̹͖̪͛̿͋́͘ͅ ̖̳̖̥̑͊̊̍ͯͧO̡̺͇͆͊̚N̡̘͈̪͎̉ͬ͟L̡̪͈̟̯̩͎͈̔Ȉ̙̲͎̳̞ͩ͗̀͟N̟̟̲͙̫̝ͣ͗̿Eͥ̇͛̓̽҉̗̫̙̹̖͜
“Ah shit.” Misha swore. "Looks like the systems right royally fucked. He squinted at the screen. “Siri, can you try and clean up the text for me?”
“Of course, right away… Done.” Siri said, the cleaned up text popping up on screen.
͢͡M̀AI̕͡N̴͡ ̷̴ŚY̶S̨̕T̵̡̡ÉM̛S̷̀͞:̵̡ ̛͢OF͠F̶͟LÍ͘͠N̵͡E ̸͏
̶̀S̀ECO̢͞N͢͜ḐA҉͢R҉͞Y̷̢ ̡S͠YŞ͞TE̴̷̡M: ̵͢͡O̧͟͝N̸͘͢L̡INE͞
̴͘LĮ͝F̷̡͞È̸͜ ̡S̀͟UP҉POR͜T́:͟ ̨Ò͠F́F̛͡҉Ļ̕I̕͢͠N̵E̵
͏̶M͘AI͏̴͡N̴͟ EN͠GI͜N͘È͢S͟:̸ ͏̨͡Ǫ͢F͢F҉Ļ̷I͡͞͡N̢E͢͡
̷N͝AV̨͘I͞GA̸̧̕T̴̶͟IO͝҉N È͠͝N̸͏Ģ̕͡I͘Ǹ̴Ę͠S̴͜:̨ ̕ONL҉͏I̴N̷͟E
“Hmm says life supports offline and its running on the backup system. Assuming it knows what its talking about. Looks like our Russian friends managed to get themselves a virus. Or had one uploaded to them. Lets get in touch with them again.”
A moment later, “ROSCOSMOS hears you, whats the status of our ship?”
“You boys got yourself a virus. And unless viruses have the ability to materialize explosives, it wasn’t just one of your people browsing porn on a work computer.”
“Understood. Any sign of our cosmonauts?”
“Not yet, and the back-up system claims life support is offline. I wouldn’t trust what it says though, its barely functioning itself. I recommend cleaning up the software before trying to find out what happened with the crew.”
“Noted…” There was a sigh from the other end of the line. “I’ll patch you through to Vladimir. He’s the head designer behind the software, he can walk you through the steps to get the systems rest to their pre-launch conditions.”
There was a crackle in the line, and another voice took over, speaking English with a heavy accent. “I am Vladimir. We is havink technical difficulties yes?”
Misha groaned. This was not going to be fun. “Affirmative. Main systems offline, but I am communicating with the secondary system.”
“Very Goot. I will guide inside system. We do full restore. How you? Do not want our only cable to system infected.”
“My security is sufficient, lets get this problem fixed.”
“Okay. First, must….
Finally, after what seemed like hours… Misha checked the clock. It HAD been hours. And his ass was getting seriously sore. Not to mention the ache in his legs from not moving for so long. Hell, his whole body hurt. Would’ve probably been worse if there was gravity… or would it be better? At least then his organs wouldn’t feel like they are trying to drift out. He shook his head. “Yes Viktor, I am here. Reboot sequence initiated…”
“Goot goot. This take care of virus. I too have small patch, steak up security, make future virus fail if try. Will send downloaded systems to people downstairs. They rip virus apart. Find who did dis. Then they be very unhappy. Maybe go to Siberia yes? Breaking my work. Unforgivable!”
“….. System is online.”
MAIN SYSTEMS: ONLINE
SECONDARY SYSTEM: ONLINE
LIFE SUPPORT: ONLINE
MAIN ENGINES: ONLINE
NAVIGATION ENGINES: ONLINE
“Alright, looks like everything cleared up Vladimir. And all systems have been brought online in the reset.”
“Okay. I will rouse the commander.”
Misha let out a sigh of relief. Vladimir’s broken English was infuriating. To say the least, though not as bad as his Czech, which was nonexistent.
He must have drifted off for a little bit, he woke up to Siri buzzing and wailing. ROSCOSMOS was back on the line. “LEGION do you copy?”
“Affirmative. LEGION receiving.”
“Excellent. I hear you have repaired all the damage to the ship. Any sign of the crew?”
Misha checked the video now streaming from the ships internal cameras. No sign of people… or bodies… He muted the line to earth. “Siri, what is the most likely location of the crew, if they are not on cameras?”
The response was almost immediate. “In the case of critical failure on a spacecraft, the best location to take refuge would be the Lander Module, much like during the Americans Apollo 13 mission. Blueprints show the lander module is on separate systems, so would remain safe no matter what happened to the main ship, short of complete destruction.”
“Excellent, thank you.” He unmuted earth. “Predicting high probability the crew has taken refuge in the lander module. Systems will have been disconnected.” He paused for a moment. “They will have disabled all connections with the main system. Do you have the frequency for the lander communications? They should function at this range even when packed.”
“Of course… erm… transmitting frequency now.”
Siri beeped “Data received. Type analysis: Radio Frequency. Save to contact list?”
Misha muted earth again. “Yes. Uhh… and run our transmission through the Czech to Russian translator.”
Misha switched to the new frequency. “Phobos-Grunt, do you receive? Your systems have been cleaned and transmission array repaired. ROSCOSMOS is awaiting contact.”
He waited… then muffled noises, and a Russian voice started speaking. He looked to Siri who was running the words though translation. “Yegor Krupin here. I hear you. Who are we talking to?”
“This is LEGION of the Czech Republic on contract with ROSCOSMOS. Glad to know there’s someone still alive up here.”
“Aga, we though we where dead too. Everyone still here though. All good. You say all systems have been repaired?”
“Yes. You can communicate again, and the systems been scrubbed. Was there any other problems?”
“No, that was it. We had just entered orbit when we heard an explosion and comms went down. Right after, all the systems broke. It tried to turn us around, go back to earth, not in mission plan. We shut down main system, but secondary not acting right either. With life support off, we didn’t have enough time to analyze the problem more.”
“Alright, well you might want to get on the horn with home. They’ll be anxious to hear from you.”
“Of course, thank you for your help. Yegor out.” The line went dead.
Misha reconnected with ROSCOSMOS. “All good here. Your cosmonauts should be contacting you shortly.”
“Excellent. Please stand by, we have decide on what to do with the mission.”
“Affirmative.” Misha said. He was about to break the link when another voice came online. “LEGION, this is director Karel. How are things up there?”
“Everything is functioning well director. Radiation levels are steady and minimal. Internal pressure consistent with expectations.”
“Good good. Looks like we should be ready for the de-orbiting phase soon. The Russians are still discussing it, but they will probably continue with the mission as planned.”
“That’s good. What about whoever created this virus?”
“Theres people working on that. Not really our problem unless they ask for more help. Just sit tight while we get everything prepared for your return.”
“Got it…” Misha looked out the window. The sun would be rising soon. “Its… kind of pretty up here.” He killed comm link. “Siri, lets get some music going. Something suitably… beautiful, for this view.”
“Loading media… scanning for tags… Playing: Kingdoms End”
He must have dozed off for a bit, when he woke Siri was buzzing for his attention. He managed to hit his head as he brought himself awake. “Misha, ROSCOSMOS wants to talk to us.” Siri announced. Misha groaned and pushed on the growing bump on his head. “Alright alright, lets hear them.” He yawned.
“LEGION, director Karel speaking. The Russians are prepared for departure, but they want to try and make sure whoever tried to sabotage them thinks it worked. You and the Phobos Grunt will soon be passing by some old satellites. Destroy a few of them, this should temporarily blind any earth based sensors watching you. The Phobos-Grunt will then engage its engines for Mars. You will take its place on the expected flight path and de-orbit into the atmosphere. The Russians have been making small adjustments to their current orbit, so you should begin to hit atmo soon after leaving them.”
“Understood. Is everything prepared for pickup once I’m falling? I’d really prefer not to hit even the ocean at terminal velocity.”
“Of course. Miss Gabriel is standing by on a separate line, and our cargo planes already cruising as high up as it can get.”
“Excellent. I can see the satellites up ahead, and PG is firing its engines.”
“I’ll see you dirt-side then. Good luck up there, stay safe” The line went dead.
Still weightless, he drifted closer to the blue sphere. Phobos-Grunt was long off, en-route for Mars… re-entry would be in… he checked Siri’s timer. 5…4…3…2…1… almost imperceptibly, he felt the lightest gravity return as the air started to drag on him. He checked Siri again. Gabriel should be getting in touch any moment now… LEGION had no heat shield. He straightened into an arrow falling feat first to reduce friction. It had been decided that speed could be accounted for better then melting. Finally Siri blinked and patched in to the incoming communication. “Legion are you listening?” Came Gabriels voice, slightly staticy from interference.
“I hear you. Can you get me down in one piece?”
“Of course. You need to drop down lower for pickup. Here’s the first co-ordinates for the jump…. activate…. 3…2…1…Now!”
Siri fed the data into the MageDrive as soon as it came in, and Misha activated the jump exactly as Gabriel said so.
Suddenly the world was a hell of a lot bigger and closer. He checked his power. Definite fluctuation there. Whatever had kept the power so high was lessening with proximity to the ground. “Jump one successful. Do you still have a lock on my position?”
“One second… yes there you are. Alright prepare for second jump. This will put you in line with the pickup plane. Transmitting data… and jump on 3…2…1…Now!”
Again the world blinked a hell of a lot closer. The lights dimmed as power was drained by the MageDrive. A green shape roared in from his right, nose down, engines turning at full speed. It was flying straight down to catch up to him. “Alright Legion, we’ll need a few small jumps here to sync speeds. Sending coordinates and 3…2…1…Jump!” The plane shifted a little, now trvelling right alongside him. He looked down and could see the pilots strapped into the cockpit.
“Sending coordinates…. 3…2….1…JUMP!” Just as Misha activated the MageDrive, he heard Gabriel praying in quietly. So this was the big one. velocities perfectly matched, the interior of the plane had been rebuilt with support structures perfectly matching Legions current shape, falling feet first towards the ocean bellow. It had to be a tight fit, if the calculations where off by even a nano-meter, Legion would overlap with the support structure. What would happen then… Theory said the result would make nuclear weapons look like firecrackers. It had never been tested. This was why the Vaticans supercomputer was needed, it and only a few others could perform the calculations to the required number of significant digits within the scant few seconds available.
It was dark outside the windows. Only faint illumination gave enough light to see the cavernous body of the plane hurtling towards the water bellow. Nearly immediately, even before the surge of elation at having made the jump alive, he felt the harsh fist of gravity slamming him in the gut as the plane sought to pull our of its nosedive. Engines roared, the frame creaked, bolts complained in their housings, but the plane held together as it bled off its vertical velocity, and levelled out into a high altitude cruise for home.
After the bomber had landed, it disgorged Legion from its bay, and he made his way back to the subterranean maintenance bay under his own power. Once secured and personally checked, Misha headed up the stairs towards the surface levels where the administrative offices where. He was dead tired, but wanted to check in with Karel, and see how the Russians where doing before he called it a night. The techies would be running through all the data collected by Legions systems all night, collecting information on systems that needed improving, or tuning. Climbing the stairs, he pulled out Siri, and tabbed in a short message to Gabriel. “Thanks”