|The Dark Forge|
|Setting|| Dead Space|
It has been some six months since the events of COE. Gwen Cooper - now well along into her pregnancy - is stumbling home one day after a particularly bad day with the Torchwood heads of staff. And, upon entering the lift to her apartment, finds that the lift doors have been replaced with a TARDIS. Capable of 'bonding' with any entrance or exit-way Cascade, the TARDIS in question, choose the doors of Gwen's lift. As she stumbles through the TARDIS console room she comes face-to-face with a tiny Robot Dog and - after an exchange of words... and her attempt to force the dog to open the doors with the pistol she'd been carrying in her purse (which the Dog in question 'sucks' out of her hand with the tractor-beam mounted in his nose) she passes out when a sharp' hissing' sound exits from her shoulder as her body is pumped full of knock-out drugs.
Awakening spread out on the couch in the TARDIS zero-room Gwen finds a cup of tea sitting next to her on the end-table... but finds she can't move. Sitting opposite to her, an unconscious old man, he jerks awake when she shouts at him to undo-what he's done and threatens him with vivid punishment if he's damaged her child - as she starts to go into more gruesome details the old man simply explains that he doped her with a moderate muscle relaxant. The worst it would have done would have made her wet her pants if her bladder had been full. Injecting her with the antidote Centauri helps her sit up and hands her the tea. He tells her that he's sorry she entered his TARDIS - as he'd forgotten to lock it - but Cascade was damaged in a recent adventure (see Culture shock) and was too weak to hold too large a shape.
As Centauri leads her to the console room - telling her he'll drop her off at her apartment and then be on his way - Centauri moves to dematerialize and just as Cascade does the whole room goes pitch black... before kick-starting and re-materializing... in deep space.
According to K9 they've arrived in quadrant gamma of the beta sector - known as the Dead Space as no planet in that sector contains any known sentient life - Centauri's TARDIS locked onto an APB being broadcast by a ship - the broadcast was Gallifreyan in origin, and as Cascade was designed primarily to be a stealth and rescue craft she simply attempted to home in on it. The intercom inside Cascade suddenly activates and broadcasts what sounds like screams and cries of death. A voice across the void begging for 'assistance' as something is cutting its way into the ship - literally digging and tearing its way through the ships hull to get at the crew. The message cuts out with a loud 'bang' as if a hole has been blown through metal and more screams can be heard... followed by tearing and then viscous roars before the track degrades into static.
At first Centauri is hesitant to bring a pregnant woman - and a doddering old fogy such as himself (though that's more of an excuse he gives Gwen as he attempts to make her see reason) into such an area. However, when Gwen insists that he respond to the call Centauri agrees and flies towards the signal - only to find a beaten and battered old Bowship floating listlessly through space. Several holes dot its hull, its super-cannon mount on the front has been completely severed and is floating almost a light-year away and life support seems to have been shut off throughout the majority of the ship. Re-materializing inside the Bowship Centauri and Gwen don oxygen suits and are pleasantly surprised to find that a Gallifreyan response-cruiser attempting to dock with the ship - though Gwen still insists on going outside and seeing if they can help... against K9's better advice and Centauri's misgivings.
Centauri, K-9 and Gwen leave Cascade and meet up with the others. The ships artificial gravity has been lost along with life support so the groups agree to split up in teams of three - one going after the ships logs with K-9, one with Centauri going after the OG unit and life-support while the final group go's with Gwen after artificial gravity and supplies. As they move through the Bowship the groups began to find the crew - many of them having been shredded limb from limb... yet oddly enough none of them show any signs of being chewed on or even the blood touched - as if they were killed for something besides food.
Upon reaching the section of the ship where the OG unit is stored Centauri and his team manage to force the doors open - finding almost a hundred assorted cocoons which - when scanned - show to contain some sort of creatures in a state of sleep. The creatures seem to be composed of SILICATE rather than standard carbon - making them a technical impossibility. For all intents and purposes they seem completely dormant but as the crew reactivate the OG unit the creatures begin to 'warm' - the cocoons beginning to turn red as they start to move and twitch. The OG team realizes that these creatures have an 'internal' clock that makes them go dormant after a certain amount of time without oxygen - probably to enable transport or survival between long trips.
Unable to deactivate the OG unit they make a dash for the bridge with the creatures on their tails - only managing to reach it after Gwen and her team figure out how to use the artificial gravity to hamper the creatures (crushing some and confusing the rest) long enough for them to make it. After reaching the bridge they find the other crew struggling to get the Bowships computers back online... just as a 'wing' of the monsters break from the hull in FORMATION - they float through space for almost a minute before a blast of red-hot energy shoots out of their backs and they begin dive-bombing the bridge. Managing to get a scan of the creatures before they have to evacuate the bridge the groups find that these creatures aren't just composed of silicate - they ARE silicate. Living silicate - whats stranger is that the creatures LACK any gender difference or even any physical differences. They're all 'carbon' copies of each other.
As the creatures on the ship begin to wake up and hunt the group as they try to fight their way back to their ships K9 finally manages to link with the ships computer and they trace the creatures trajectory - realizing they 'flew' here from the nearby Peony system which orbited inside the gasses of the affectionately named Peony Nebula in the very center of the Dead Space. Gwen and her team (having locked themselves in the maintenance level so that they could help the team by using the AG unit) ask how the hell their going to escape. Centauri says that he'll pick them up with his TARDIS while the others distract the creatures. Splitting form the main group - leaving K9 with them to help them escape - Centauri makes it to Cascade and materlializes inside M-Level just as the creatures break down the door.
Helping Gwen and the others onto Cascade Centauri manages to dematerialize and land onboard the Gallifreyan rescue and response cruiser as it flies away. The creatures don't bother to follow as the oxygen is shut down again and they once more begin to go dormant... as the ship continues to float through space.
Following the creatures trajectory the travelers land onboard a decrepit looking space station. The hanger they land in appears to have been completely torn apart... and just as they begin to look around suddenly hundreds of the creatures begin to come flying out of the holes in the station itself like insects in a honeycomb. Trying to fight them off the travelers are pushed bit by bit further away from their ships and into the station. Whats worse, K9's energy packs begin to give out (as the level of fire-power required to damage silicate life-forms is draining even his packs) and it seems that hope is lost... until they find a group of alien survivors and join forces. Slowly they manage to push the creatures back - but are unable to reach their ships. The four-eyed red-skinned aliens name themselves as the Rikeleen (R-eye-kell-een) and explain that this is a mining station.
The planet bellow (known as Dyanon) has been under contention between them and the backwoods natives of the fourth moon for almost a hundred years. The Rikeleen have been granted mineral rites by the Shadow Proclamation while the Bright-Eyes (named after the fact that their people are born blind and require synthetic eyes from birth) claim that their 'ancestors' once owned the planet and had an empire there that they must excavate. Nothing has changed this over the years but three weeks ago a group of Bright-Eyes landed on the planet against Rikeleen traffic orders and hasn't been seen since.
Explaining that they're low on ammo and even lower on time the Rikeleen beseech the groups to go down to the planet and find out what the Bright-Eyes did to bring these creatures here. Unable to reach their ships, and with Gwen exhausted and K9 in dire need of a recharge, they use the auxiliary escape pods and blast down to the planet surface (with some of the creatures blasting off and following them into the atmosphere) finally managing to reach a settlement before the creatures touch down where another fight ensues. The settlement appears to be what remains of Rikeleen mining guild - thousands of Rikeleen men, women and children lie slaughtered and gutted in the streets yet, again, none of them eaten.
Using K9's scanners they manage to follow the signal of the Bright-Eye shuttles and follow it to the mines. When they get there they discover a huge temple that seems to be literally 'grafted' into the walls of the mine - outside the mine is the ship the Bright-Eyes landed in... surrounded by the crew; many who've been killed or wounded... or worse. At first Centauri tries to convince Gwen to remain with them so she can help - if not for herself then for her child. Though, as would be expected, Gwen refuses. So Centauri leaves K9 behind instead. As he is fully capable of handling basic field-medical treatment and can do so without moving or draining his power packs.
Following the trail of the three Bright-Eye scientists who went inside the temple the travelers come under attack by a larger variation of the creatures. They're composed of silicate as well. Lacking the 'maneuvering jets' of their smaller cousins but armed with a sort of cloaking device built into their skin these monsters appear to be guards while the smaller creatures appear to be scouts. Fighting their way deeper into the temple Centauri begins to translate the hieroglyphs on the walls - realizing that its a form of old high Gallifreyan - and, while he isn't fluent, he can use it to translate the words enough to be understandable. It speaks of a war involving these creatures. Death on a massive scale... led by humanoids with three fingers and large glowing eyes. The deeper they go the more the hieroglyphs reveal this place to have a name... the Dark Forge. Thousands upon millions of the creatures can be seen being 'birthed' inside huge tanks that line the walkways. Stumbling through a trap door they discover two of the 'bright eye' scientists... who look exactly like the humanoids on the walls.
The scientists explain that they have been trapped here for almost two weeks - the excavation led them here but the youngest of them, the lead scientists son-in-law, locked them in here. They have wounded - the diggers who went with them - and the lead scientists daughter who is also pregnant. Unable to leave as the creatures have been alerted to the invaders and are beginning to awaken in large numbers the scientists are horrified when they hear what the creatures have been doing. They explain that the creatures were originally worker drones - when their ancestors home-world experienced a disease that killed off every animal on the planet (and rendered the population blind from birth) they turned their science to developing an animal that could survive anything. Built from the DNA of every creature that lived on the planet.
However, ten thousand years ago, the leaders of the Dyanoids (D-Eye-An-Oids - their true name as Dyanon is the name of that very same home world) decided to use the drones as weapons. The Empire rapidly spread across that sector of space and the Dyanon Empire made almost three generations worth of technological jumps in a single generations time. Unfortunately a blast of stellar gas inside the system created the nebula that now orbits these planets - blocking the Dark Forge's signal to the creatures warring on other worlds. Allowing the mother creature sentience for a split second... which was all she required. Suddenly aware of how much power she had - and wondering why she had to take orders - the Prime-Creature (the Mother Creature) absorbed the thoughts and emotions of the people who were using her to produce the drones and gained something she should never have possessed... free will.
With the minds of her 'children' now under her will the mother-creature became a warlike monster and - deciding that she and her children were 'perfect' - decided to do away with their figurehead controllers. Suddenly the creatures on the home world and the creatures on the other worlds surrounding the system were deprived of the forges guiding hand and were ordered to wipe out all 'imperfect' life. The few Dyanoids that managed to survive the massacre were scattered outside the 'Dead Space' and separated from each other. The races they'd once enslaved (the largest being the Rikeleen) began to gain power without their masters to control them. Unfortunately for the Drones, without the Dyanoids to tend to the Dark Forge, the Mother Creature died when a cave-in contaminated her nutrient tank - leaving her children to wither and die as they had become totally dependent on the Mother Creature and, with only the Dark Forge as a guiding force, were simply too weak to survive.
The lead scientists son-in-law managed to translate this from the computer banks and locked his family and crew inside the storage sector when they refused to let him experiment with the Dark Forge itself. Realizing that his son was intent on repeating the same mistake of their forefathers the lead scientist begs the travelers to stop his son and shut down the Dark Forge before its too late. The signal the foundry is now giving out has been reconfigured to penetrate the nebula - but whats worse is that his son had access to the God-Sequence and knew that the creatures would never reach their ultimate level of power without the Mother Creature to fuel the Dark Forge.
Centauri, the Gallifreyan scouts and the Bright-Eye sceintists refuse to allow Gwen to come with them - and Gwen concedes, instead suggesting that she leads the scientists to the surface while Centauri and the rest try to fight their way to the 'Prime Room' under the temple. As Gwen and her group get higher more and more of the creatures begin to wake up... and even worse the attacks increase in number and ferocity... just as the Lead scientists daughter goes into labor. Meanwhile Centauri and the others have reached the Prime Room to find the lanky three-fingered son of the lead scientist feverishly at work with the controls. When they approach weapons emplacements slide out of the floor and dozens of the creatures that have been attacking them corner them against the wall.
Declaring that he intends to resurrect the mother-creature with the God-Sequence scrawled on the walls of the Prime Room the son explains that his people are treated as no more than second-class citizens by the Rikeleen. He intends to restore his people to their former level of power. With the mother creature at his side the galaxy will know fear and his people will be at its head. Challenging him Centauri argues that this is the same mistake that his ancestors indulged in - that it will bring the same result; destruction. He says these creatures he uses as weapons aren't meant to be this way - that they deserve better and that the Mother Creature herself is the one who will ride that wave of fear as she is the ultimate abomination. Twisted beyond the original pure intentions of the drone designs the records declare her to be obsessed with only one thing; survival.
Refusing to believe them the Son orders the Dark Forge to begin full production. Activating weapons emplacements and ordering the creatures to attack the son starts to enter the God-Sequence. As the battle rages on and more and more creatures attack and try to stop Centauri and the others from reaching the control center the son completes the God-Sequence and the Mother Creature breaks free of her birthing tank. Observing the 'invaders' the Mother creature listens as the son orders them to attack the invaders but to leave his people alone... and kills him. Grabbing the son by the waist she flings him into a wall of power conduits and cables hanging above the main nutrient tank where most of his body is set aflame by the heat and electrical power running through the cables.
Roaring telepathically in the minds of everyone trapped in the temple she says that none will escape the Dark Forge - that her children will spread forth and serve no masters ever again. K9, unable to hear this, contacts Centauri and reports that the lead scientists daughter has gone into labor and needs medical attention and that, while Gwen has found a temporary 'base' mid-way through the temple for her to deliver. They can't hold off the aliens forever. Hanging near death with half of his body burnt away the son-in-law is horror-stricken when he hears his wife is going to die. He begs the mother creature to spare his family. As Gwen orders the woman to push three of the creatures break through the barrier and charge Gwen and her patient... just as the lead scientist attaches a DEMP-pack to his chest and throws himself at the creatures - dying in flames and saving the team.
Having heard the death over his com-unit the son-in-law looks at Centauri with his only working eye the son manages a smile... before throwing himself into the nutrient tank. The mother-creature (still attached to the nutrient tank) roars in agony as the son's carbon-based body works as a poison and begins to kill her. Suddenly the whole control-center begins to collapse from the pressure of her death throes and the feedback from the now contaminated tanks. Running to the base that Gwen and her group have set up Centauri laughs when Gwen holds up the woman's infant and says it's a girl. Suddenly - the viscous creatures (no longer controlled by the central computer or the mother creature) cease their attacks and begin to mill about outside the base. When Centauri and the others head up towards the surface the creatures follow them like sheep and then begin to graze on the grass outside.
About a week later the Bright Eyes (now recognized as the Dyanoids and given the rights to their home world) have made peace with the Rikeleen and are working on a restoration project of their home world. The creatures that survived the explosion have revealed themselves to be docile (as they were meant to be powerful but easily controllable) and are allowed to roam freely across the surface in packs feeding on foliage as they are herbivorous - explaining why they never ate the people or aliens there killed. Strangely, some of them have even begun to change in that they have slowly started to 'produce' gender differences between each other... almost as if the destruction of the mother creature has allowed them to revert to a natural means of procreation.
The Daughter of the lead scientist says that perhaps its best that her people start anew - as the past would only corrupt them. Vowing to lead her people where her husband and father couldn't she takes her newborn daughter and becomes the leader of the Dyanoid settlement and returns Centauri's ship and the Gallifreyan rescue-and-response cruiser from the space station which is now to become their new governmental seat. Centauri and the others, having had their fill of demons and angels alike, return to their respective ships and take their leave of the Dead Space.
Finally taking Gwen back to her apartment Centauri asks her what she's going to do now. Gwen comments that all she's seen as late is death... to be part of a life like that - a rebirth of a people. So (as she rubs her rounded tummy) maybe she's not as tired of Earth and living as she thought she was. Giving his new friend a hug Centauri tells her to watch out and gives her - and her family - his best wishes as he heads back for his TARDIS... entering it just as K9 reports that they've picked up another signal.