“Attention, Whisper and escort,” came the message from Talis Station. “Please take up a waiting configuration. We have a bit of a situation.”
“That doesn’t sound good,” Amanpreet muttered before responding. “Affirmative, Talis Station. What sort of situation?”
“The fight you were just in with the Vaians seems to have triggered some sort of security protocols in the Talis computer. They have an automated defense system that started up when the first laser was fired. It’s not shooting at us because it has us designated as friendly but we think it might fire at anything else that moves.”
“So you’d like us to wait until the computer powers it down again?”
“Yes, precisely. It shouldn’t be too long once we’ve given it the data to understand the situation is not a threat to the eggs.”
“Make sense,” Amanpreet said. “But it’s impressive that it still works after so long.”
“We could say that about all their technology. I’ll call you once it’s safe. Talis Station out.”
It was a couple of hours later that they finally got the all clear from Talis Station and proceed in system from the asteroid belt and docked in the human section of the station. Sangat was waiting for them as soon they disembarked.
“Am!” he said. “Are you okay? That was unnerving.”
“We’re fine!” Amanpreet hugged her brother. “It was only a short wait, but yes I imagine having a planetary defence system suddenly activate under you is pretty scary.”
Sangat stared at her for a moment before shaking his head. “Not that, though it was too. But I meant the Vaians shooting at you!”
“Oh, right,” she said. “I’m almost getting used to Vaians trying to kill us by now.”
“Used to…” he trailed off and shook his head again. “Anyway I need to go down to the surface. The computer wants to give control of the defence system to us so this doesn’t happen again. You can come too as well if you want.â€
â€œCan my guests come as well?â€ Amanpreet asked. â€œI think they are curious about Talis.â€
â€œYou mean the scientists on the Corona mission?â€ he asked. â€œOf course.â€
â€œCan I come too?â€ Kayla asked before extending her hand to Sangat. â€œI’m Kayla by the way.â€
Sangat smiled at her and shook her hand. â€œHi! I’m Am’s brother. And of course you can.â€
â€œThanks,â€ she said.
â€œNo problem,â€ he said. â€œI’ve heard a lot about you on the news. You’ve had a rough time.â€
â€œI’ll live,â€ Kayla said.
â€œI’m sure you will,â€ he said before turning back to Amanpreet. â€œYou’re in the same quarters as last time, Am. Do you want to dump your stuff and meet me back here in half an hour?â€
“Woah!” Oni said when they entered the underground city on Talis. “I’d seen the videos of this place but it didn’t do it justice. He peeked through the open door of one of the houses. “There’s tools of some sort and furniture in there.”
“Yes,” Sangat said. “We think they intended to shelter here but couldn’t manufacture enough shielding. So they protected the eggs and left the city for them instead.”
“Remarkable, was this the only shelter?”
“No, the computer has directed us to several others – but only a few of the shelterrs survived. It wants us to swap around the queen eggs to avoid inbreeding.”
“It makes sense,” Oni agreed. “So where are we going.”
“Down another level to where we found the eggs and the computer.” Sangat led them into the building where they’d found the book then down a passageway hidden behind the book alcove into a now empty chamber that Amanpreet recognised immediately.
“This is the egg chamber!”
“That’s right,” Sangat said. “And the central computer is just through here.” He led them into the next room where a strange cone shaped structure of layered rock and biological material stood. It must be the computer but it looked like no computer Amanpreet had ever seen. Sangat however began scanning some shelves behind it looking for something.”
“There should be a Talisman around here somewhere,” he said. “A green toridal one.”
“A what?” Amanpreet asked.
“Talisman,” Sangat replied. “It’s like a chip but looks more like an ornament and they are all different so we nicknamed them Talismans… it’s a pun. Talis-man. Talisman.”
Amanpreet groaned but didn’t comment. Instead she started looking at the shelves as well. After a moment she spotted something that looked like a polished emerald donut. “Is that it?” she asked.
“It is.” The noise came from the cone shaped computer and a ole opened on its front. Please place the talisman in the slot.”
Amanpreet did as she was instructed and there was a rumbling sound and a beam of light shot upwards through the ceiling in the direction of Talis station. “Control of defences passed to designated allies,” it said. “Thank you.”
“Good,” Sangat said. “Now let’s get back and talk about Corona.”
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