II.

The Atonement, the ARK ship, slowly pulled up the Pagoda‘s side hours later.  While the ARK ship was fully stocked for another couple hundred years, the citizens had made it a habit to venture out of their way by a few hundred klicks to other ships drifting in space.  The community had gotten into scrimmages with space pirates, learned several new languages from passing merchants and derelict ships, they even made a stop at a planet that had been known for it’s fighters in both aircraft and people. Some of the people stayed there, having grown tired of space travel.

The Atonement residents had been awake for 200 years, the generations having set times for people who wanted to give birth as to not over- or underflow the population to keep the ship running.  The ship’s people were science and faith oriented, only drawing their weapons when being attacked by pirates.

Lights flashed on the Pagoda‘s shadow of a hull, the name in language the Atonement hadn’t encountered before.

“Captain, General, we may be able to comb this and get technology from what looks like the living quarters.”

The captain, an old sailor, nodded and looked at the general, a young woman.

“You have two hours to ready a team.”

“Aye aye.”

An hour and a half later, the general stood in the middle of a ring of 5.  She explained the situation was just to retrieve tech.  The captain made his way into the debriefing room as the team was getting dressed in their armor.

“Take your time, our ship isn’t going anywhere.  Keep in radio contact in case you find something that needs more than 5 people to gather or in case one of you get hurt.  I’m sorry we don’t have a blueprint for you to guide yourself on. Please keep your flares on you at all times.  I can have a shuttle out to you in moments.”  He nodded, the team saluted, he left.

“Hate that guy,”  one of the two scientists said under their breath.

As the two scientists, the general and two soldiers made their way into the drop shuttle, the general stared at the shell of the derelict ship through a porthole.

“Look at how… old it looks…”

“Aye… But it’s more advanced than our shit.  Look at those thrusters,” said one of the soldiers, amazed at the way the ancient ship was shaped. As the shuttle docked with the ship, the crew put on their gear, checking their levels, making sure everything was secured.

The first step outside the shuttle made one of the scientists uneasy.  The other started scanning the area with their tools to get readings about the air.

“Nothing toxic in the air, despite all the fire damage.”

“We should leave this place,” the nervous scientist whispered under their breath.

“What?” the general asked, turning around to face the shaking  scientist.

“This is a graveyard, we shouldn’t be here,” they whispered, staying close to the shuttle doors.

“You know, for a person of science, you sure act like a superstitious house frau,” one of the soldiers said, turning away when the nervous scientist scowled at them.

“My occupation and my instincts are two different things, fuck face. Me being nervous and not wanting to walk on the corpses of the people who died here has nothing to do with my job.  Just keep that fucking fun in front of you and do your job of protecting us from whatever the fuck is in here.”

The soldier’s face got hot with embarrassment and anger.

“Never in your life talk to me like that again,” the now angry scientist said, pushing past the soldier.  The general watched both them.

“What are you readings?” she asked the other scientist.

“The air seems normal, a smidge high in CO2, but I guess that’s just from the fire.  But why would it stay this high after the fire has died…”  The anger scientist let out a scream a few yards ahead.  The general rushed to meet them, gently placing a hand on their shoulder.  The scientist jumped and stared up at the general wide-eyed.

“They slaughtered them,” they whispered, their voice shaking, their eyes on the verge of releasing tears. The general studied their face before looking up and past them.  A figure in a long white dress stared back.  When the general blinked they were gone.

“Let’s get you back to the ship,” the general said, gently leading the distressed scientist back to the shuttle.

“Uh, ma’am?” the embarrassed soldier said loudly.  The general turned around, watching the hallway lights started to flicker on.

“What is–”

A strong wind from the destroyed escape pod dock snaked its way through the ship, pushing the crew back.  The distressed scientist let out a yelp as the wind forced them back 10 yards, their head slamming against the shuttle doors, cracking their helmet, the ships air seeping through.  The general grunted, trying to hold the line as the wind picked up.

“GET IN THE SHUTTLE NOW,” they called out, the other three crew members taking slow steps back so they didn’t get thrown around.  They picked up the fallen scientist, slammed the button to open the shuttle doors and falling inside.  The shuttle had a rocky start, shaking and almost rolling over from the wind, but managed to fly away from the dock.  The air became still, the lights in the derelict ship turned off.  The scientist’s helmet was covered in blood on the inside.

“Have the captain have a doctor meet us,” the general said, slowly taking off the helmet.  The scientist’s face was puffy and turning blue.

“Three years… off… course…” they murmured, their eyes distant and unfocused.

The sound of gunshots rang throughout the shuttle, causing the two soldiers to flinch, pointing their guns at nothing.  When the shuttle made it back to the Atonement, the Atonement‘s power turned off for 10 seconds.

They were not safe.

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