“What the fuck do you mean it’s not there?” a voice crackled over comms.

Yuri rolled his eyes in a manner that would have pissed off the supe he was talking to, if he wasn’t standing on the ass end of the Ascension. What the fuck do you think that means? Yuri’s magnetized boots held him firmly in place as he looked out into where the main engines of the Ascension had been.

The Ascension had been powered by an array of fusion reactors placed on the aft end of the ship, a hundred meters in diameter. The array had been separated from the rest of the ship by half a kilometer of reinforced trusses and supports in tandem with a large array of cables for additional support. The reason for the length was to prevent potential fallout from reaching the crew, should there be any critical disaster caused by the engines.

Yuri had been standing ten meters from where the array would have been, his feet nicely secured on the thick criss-crossed truss, where an obvious pathway had been put in place for people like Yuri. The cables that would have been supporting the engine array flailed in a nonexistent breeze like tentacles of a mechanical beast. Imperceptible to Yuri, mechanics from the inside of the Ascension were already working on retracting them back to a safe distance, so as not to snag on someone or something. The motors on the ends of the cables were slow, it would be hours before they would be retracted to a safe distance.

If Yuri had looked behind him, he would see the massive hulk that was the Ascension. Nearly two kilometers long and weighing in at over ten thousand tons, it was one of the largest ships ever created. It was made to be placed in faraway reaches of Sol, particularly the Outer Worlds and the Kuiper Belt. The Ascension had been the first of its kind.

The Ascension sported four rotating rings called toruses, or tori. They were peppered along the length of the ship at 1/4 kilometer intervals, and lettered A, B, C, and D. Each individual torus was about a hundred meters in diameter, measured from the outer hull. Each torus rotated at 10 rpm, creating a comfortable 0.5g of gravity for any humans in those spaces. Three of the tori were living quarters for the forty five crew members aboard the ship. The fourth torus, ring C, was for recreation.

Due to its size, the Ascension was fitted with a tram system that ran down the length of the ship. The tram scooted along the center of the ship, in between the tori and in null gravity, making stops at important stations of the ship. Engineering, Life Support Systems, Tori A through D, the Bridge, the Docks, and the Engine Room were some of the areas of the ship the tram serviced.

Yuri made his way closer to the edge of where the engine array had been, the tentacles were behind him now. As he neared the edge, he noticed that the metal appeared distorted and bent. Whatever had separated the array from the ship had done so in a pretty sloppy manner, maybe by a small explosion? It wasn’t difficult to make a bomb; all of the materials to make one were on the ship.

The real question, was why? The Ascension was an expeditionary mission, funded by the United Saturnian Coalition. The objective of the ship was to create a platform for future expeditions by establishing a staging area and trading hub for ships looking to harvest precious minerals and water ice from the Kuiper Belt. This presence would eventually evolve into a launching platform for the first interstellar vehicles to leave Sol. Now, it seems that those plans were going to have to wait.

Yuri looked out at the reddish world of Pluto in front of him. The still heart of Cordis Planitia stared back at him, encased between the chaotic highlands of Cthulhu Regio and of Krun Macula.

In the corner of Yuri’s vision, he made out a fast moving light. The Ascension was supposed to be the only ship out here, so Yuri instinctively looked out toward the Docks that bulged out somewhat from the bulk of the ship. The Docks were home to five short-range landers; each one capable of landing on planetary surfaces, provided that it lacked a significant atmosphere. Yuri felt a bead of sweat run down his forehead as he saw an empty docking port where the fifth lander would have been.

“We’ve got bigger problems out here captain,” Yuri said into his radio.


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