This door is opened elsewhere...
This is a fanfic I've been planning on doing for a while, with the intention being that it will become an actual mod for GZDoom in the future (a few of the assets are already in the bag, but I digress).
The first part is just the prologue, but feedback is welcome all the same. And yes, the main character is that little lady sitting in the chair ;)
Hope you enjoy what I've got so far. So, without further ado ...
PERSONAL DATA ENTRY
OCTOBER 23rd, 2163
My name is Dr. Cameron Scott. I am a theoretical physicist stationed at the Union Aerospace Corporation outpost on the dwarf planet Ceres. I have been working here for the past few months under the supervision of Dr. Alison Crawley PhD. If you have found this log, there is a high probability that I am dead. I am recording this in the hope that someone finds out what happened here.
It pains me now to think that I had actually wanted to come here against my family's wishes. But I had no choice. All I wanted was a better life for Darren and our two children, and it seemed like the UAC was the way to go. Like most people these days, we'd been struggling to make ends meet. The salary and benefits for my six-month stay here would in itself see both of our kids through college and pay off the arrears on our home.
It wasn't just the financial side. On a personal level, it was the chance to work with Dr. Crawley that clinched it for me. Since Ceres went live, she had single-handedly advanced the research into interdimensional space travel by around 10 years in a little over two. In fact, if there was anything that she didn't know about portal tech, it probably wasn't worth knowing. A truly remarkable woman.
Fact is, I had always wondered why the UAC offered such generous incentives for their off-world opportunities. Now I know...
FIFTEEN HOURS EARLIER
The alarm went off. I'd been dreaming about being back home with my family. It wasn't long now until that would come to fruition.
Today marked the beginning of the final stage of the portal experiments. To date, we'd been able to send small teams through the portals with a modicum of equipment, but today we would begin testing with the portals open for prolonged periods. I would be in charge of monitoring proceedings at this end, under Dr. Crawley's supervision.
I was apprehensive, though. I'd been hearing stories spread throughout the complex about things happening to some of the volunteers who'd gone through the portals. I'd heard mention of delusions, psychosis, assault, suicide, even physical changes in people. Apparently, some hadn't returned at all.
I eased myself out of bed and went into the bathroom. I looked at myself in the mirror, ran my fingers through my hair and sighed.
“Well, this is it,” I said to my reflection. The face staring back at me didn't look as nervous as I felt.
After taking a shower, getting dressed and having some breakfast, I grabbed my lab coat and left my quarters. It was the usual scene for the base at that time of the morning. People going about their business in either lab gear or overalls, and the ever-increasing military presence. I understood the reason for having the armed guards on site, I'd even got to know a few of them, but their sheer numbers always gave me the creeps. Why did we need so much firepower?
Dr. Crawley had given me this task personally. She had a reputation for being eccentric and difficult to work with. I could see that she was pretty highly strung at times. I just put it down to the stress of the job, but there were a few people in the facility who had issues with her. I knew that some of them resented the fact that I had been given this opportunity ahead of them, given my relatively short time on Ceres. I didn't know exactly why Dr. Crawley had taken such a shine to me. I hadn't tried to be the “teacher's pet”, so to speak, but she'd seemed impressed with my performance all the same. Today was my chance to shine, to show the rest of the lab that I'd earned this task. That just made me all the more nervous.
As I continued on my way to towards the lab complex, I caught sight of Dr. Crawley in a side office with two men I hadn't seen before. She seemed quite agitated. That is to say, more than usual. I stopped walking, lifted out my PDA and pretended to fiddle with it to see if I could get an earful of what was happening.
Dr. Crawley was standing with her arms folded, her bright aqua-marine eyes almost like slits. One of the men was in a suit, the other in full military fatigues.
“We've been through this before, Counsellor,” said Dr. Crawley. “I raised this with Senior Management myself eighteen months ago. How many different ways do you want me to tell you the same damn thing? You know full well the UAC and the OSHA have never been exactly cosy.”
The man in the suit shook his head. “It's what you aren't telling us that's the problem, Doctor,” he said. “The accident rate on Ceres is through the roof. There have been several suicides and every day there's another transfer request coming through to us on Earth. People working here are terrified of something. I am here to find out what the problem is.”
Dr. Crawley rolled her eyes. “These people are on a remote off-world facility in the ass-end of space, millions of miles from their homes and their families,” she said. “People are going stir crazy up here. I even question my own sanity at times. Seriously, Nugent, you try living here long term and you'll start hearing things, too.”
Counsellor Nugent leaned forward. “Dr. Fallon and Dr. McManus,” he said. “Were they just hearing things?”
Dr. Crawley put her head in her hand and sighed. “Why the hell did you have to bring that up?” she said. “They were two of the best minds we ever had out here. It still hurts me that they never felt comfortable enough to come and talk to me. I'm sure I could have done something to help.”
Fallon, I thought. Grainne Fallon? Wasn't she the scientist I replaced?
“I've been given full authorisation by Senior Management to examine everything that's happening here,” said Nugent. “Every single portal experiment the Corporation has conducted has ended in disaster. We don't want another.”
Dr. Crawley turned her head away from him. “Just do whatever you're here to do,” she said.
The two men left the room, and that was when Dr. Crawley caught sight of me. I was expecting to incur her full wrath, but instead, she gave me a friendly wave and left the room herself.
As I made my way down the dimly-lit corridors past the infirmary, I saw another one of the soldiers being restrained by three of the medical staff. His face was contorted, and it was hard to tell whether he was in pain or going crazy. I would have sworn that his eyes were bright red. One of the staff, Dr. Marcus Weyland, was standing over him with a syringe.
“I can't believe this,” I heard him say. “What the hell is happening to these people?”
He gave the man the injection, which seemed to settled him down, but the staff still looked nervous. I was, too.
It was then that Dr. Weyland spotted me. “I didn't think you'd have had time to watch the show this morning, Dr. Scott,” he said, dryly. “What with this being your big day, and all.”
“I'm sorry, Doctor,” I said. “I didn't mean to intrude. I'll talk to you later.”
With that, I continued towards the labs. As I turned the next corner, I bumped into one of the few friends I'd made during my time here.
“Oh, I'm sorry, Cam,” she said, “I didn't see you there.”
Dr. Toshiko Yutani had started here the same day I had. We wound up eating lunch together most days, and got to know each other really well. She was a few years younger than me. In fact, at just 22, she was one of the youngest members of the team. We all called her “Toshi”. She was pretty green, but she was eager. Today, she seemed really upbeat.
“Toshi,” I said, “good morning. How are you?”
“Well,” she said, “Marcus popped the question last night.”
My eyes widened. “You're kidding me!” I said. “What did you say?”
Toshi raised her hand to show me the ring. It was silver with a massive sapphire in the middle.
“That's fantastic!” I cried. “When's the big day?”
“As soon as we get home,” she said. “Actually, I was meaning to ask you if you would be maid of honour?”
I was kind of taken aback by this, but I gave it a little thought. “I'd be honoured,” I said, finally. “Listen, I gotta go. We'll talk more about it over lunch, okay?”
“Sure,” she said, “I'll see you then.”
“Congratulations!” I said. As I walked away, I smiled. It wasn't every day that something nice happened around here...