Digging through all the status indicators, all he saw were blues and greens. Some above and beyond the tolerance levels on the positive end. The connections to the new generators He minimized it all in his interface, stepping back from the maintenance node’s array of machines and displays around them as they fed the Tarrare “embassy.” Embassy was a misnomer to Luis. It had turned into more of a colony in terms of its size and scope. “Everything looks good with the new grid upgrades,” Luis marveled, finishing his checks. They were done, Luis checking the last work package to bring the project all the way to completion.
Nico and Elara, the best new people in his crew, nodded their heads. They helped him staff the maintenance node and track all the various projects and operations indicators while the other crews crawled all over the rest of the tunnels, ducts, and passageways. They’d worked really hard to finish the power grid upgrade project, and it had worked out damn well. “Excellent work, everyone,” Luis said, sending an all-team communication through his interface to the other crews. “This is the first time the power levels have been above orange in awhile.” He was the on-site lead now, so he had to make sure everyone got their acknowledgement. Reuben liked the message, showing in his ever passive-aggressive way that he was still part of the crew and not so happy about his lack of recent promotions. Luis sent him a private DM to taunt him for screwing up less than usual.
“Is all this just to power those supertools?” Nico asked. “I heard they’re increasing the size of the chambers down there. They’ve been really active lately.”
“Metatools, Nico,” Luis corrected. Nico was a younger technician that had been brought on to the core level six months ago, but he was still mastering all the new terms. He was a hard worker, but he was scared of learning about the Tarrare. He didn’t read his briefings and manuals, all full of new definitions and words. Luis had trouble keeping up sometimes too, considering they were Alien terms that someone had invented awkward human words to describe. “They’re like our printers and assemblers but way better. They can assemble just about anything at an atomic level, given that you feed them the right raw materials. Problem is they consume a lot of energy. This upgrade is partially to cover them, but not entirely. They just wanted the extra capability, said something about potential expansions.”
“I heard the power surges today have been because they’ve been making these packages for the last few hours,” Elara added. She was quiet and Luis found her hard to read, but she was good with electronics and had a decent work ethic. For all their foibles, working with both of them was a blessing after Reuben’s baggage and bullshit. “Someone on lunch break said it was packages of other metatools for distribution. Using a factory to build factories is a strange thing in the first place, but to do it all at once? I wonder what’s up.”
Luis turned to look through one of the main observation windows into the sizable Tarrare living space below. They were moving around a lot, working at invisible displays his interface couldn’t access. Ordinarily they were quite mellow, moving very slowly and deliberately. They seemed agitated, but in their quiet and polite way. “They can move so fast,” Nico asked. “Has anyone ever clocked one of them?”
“When they use all those legs just to run it stands to reason,” Elara added. “Down close to the ground like that with all six legs they can get very agile.” Luis noticed his power levels change from the pleasant greens and blues back to yellow. An audible rumble moved the floor plates around them as the lighting dimmed and then changed color. Alien characters came up in the Tarrare language, displayed on a feed strip near the ceiling. Luis activated the translation app in his interface, trying to make sense of the messages.
“I’ve never seen that before,” Nico commented. The tell-tale clicking sound of Tarrare legs moving down the oversized hallways came toward them, Administrator Krand-Vie entering one of the node’s side doors. She had two other males with her, both of whom had the thick layer of synthetic fibers projected over their body with ambient lights interspersed that the Tarrare sometimes had.
“Nico, Luis, Elara,” Krand-Vie’s synthetic voice echoed. Luis could swear it had grown closer to a human woman over time, but it could be his mind adapting to talking with her so much. “Thank you for your recent success. Your timing for completion of this project is ideal. Whatever communications or guidance you may have received recently, we need all available power reserves directed to the communications arrays immediately and for the power distribution to remain at that setting for the next three hours. You are to disable all other facility sub-systems not essential to supporting the function of the communications arrays or simply movement throughout the facility, including security and life support. We anticipate no detrimental effects from this rerouting over such a narrow time horizon.”
“Will do, ma’am, I’m still logged into the OMI,” Luis said, pulling up his interface to make the changes through the maintenance node. He accessed the energy management admin panel and started to reallocate power within the facility’s Operations and Maintenance Interface. “What’s going on? Is there something we should be concerned about?”
Krand-Vie paused. She clicked all the sets of fingers on her front four arms together rhythmically. Luis knew that gesture. That was Krand-Vie being very concerned about something and wondering how to communicate it in a way humans would understand. “You should definitely be concerned,” Krand-Vie said. “Once the three hour window has expired, we will need another re-route of all power systems. The facility will activate full security protocols. We will provide detailed assignments to you at that point as to how we will sustain these protocols through the future. Due to the loyal service you have provided to us, I am prepared to authorize your family members and friends, should you be able to collect them before then, to join us here. You have been allocate a small amount of the communications arrays’ bandwidth to accomplish this. I recommend you contact them immediately and tell them to make their way to this site without delay.”
“Excuse me?” Nico asked. “This doesn’t sound like a drill. Why do the communication relays need so much power?”
“Don’t question the client, Nico,” Elara whispered under her breath.
“Your planet is about to come under attack,” Krand-Vie said. There it was. Suddenly a lot of things made sense to Luis, too much sense. “The attack will come from a race hostile to us. Hostile to almost every other known race, to be more precise. I will discuss the matter with all of you in greater detail later, but we have no time for such debriefings given these circumstances. Please contact your associates and have them join us as soon as possible.”
Krand-Vie didn’t give them time to answer more questions. She walked away, back the same way she came with her two escorts. Luis now saw them as guards, the fiber suits around them as combat armor and probably bearing all kinds of concealed weapons. He saw the Tarrare moving around in their living quarters working their displays differently, too. They were sending a distress call, giving military orders, or activating contingency plans. He understood very quickly the sort of machine the colony was becoming. He was a part of it now.
“What did she just say?” Elara asked. Luis changed his interface, moving over to all of his personal contact accounts. He began pinging Daimon. Repeatedly, through every social media account he could. As Luis was rarely the kind of person to do that, he knew he’d get his husband’s attention. Then there was his sister. His mother had passed away, and Luis felt relieved about that for the first time in ages. Guilty, but also relieved that she wasn’t about to experience whatever it was they were all about to see. “Luis, what are you doing?” Elara said, her voice vacant.
“I’m doing what she said and telling people to get their asses here,” Luis said. When he turned to them, he could tell that Elara and Nico still pale from the news they’d received. Listless and shocked, their eyes stared into the middle distance. “Listen, you heard the lady. We’ve all been in the inner guts of this underground compound/colony for years now. I have a feeling that if she’s right, this is going to be the safest place possible. I recommend you get anyone you care about here as quickly as possible.” Seeing Elara and Nico still lurching into action, he pointed and gestured at the Tarrare scrambling below in their work areas. “If something has THEM scared, it’s serious.”
ESA/Hubble & NASA