Pre * De * Cede: Chapter 5
Zeta brought her chair to Delta’s place, taking up his arm. “This shouldn’t take more than a moment.” She fiddled with the syringe in her other hand while Delta examined the surroundings of the room serenely.
It was the first time that I imagined the six of us were in the same room together, conscious at least. There was an exact number of chairs for us. Gamma and Beta had prepared food for themselves, putting the steaming mush on a tray before them.
I cleared my throat and stood, leaning my weight on the table. “I wish to… welcome you all to waking, formally at this point. In particular, to you Delta.”
Zeta finished with Delta’s treatment and swiftly stepped out of the room with the used syringe, returning as fast as she had left. “Everyone is healthy and inoculated.” She said while retaking her seat.
“Thank you, Zeta.” I said, bowing my head in thanks. “I awoke… approximately five days ago to look upon the exterior of this station. As many of you have likely observed, I was able to see nothing but the vast expanse in all directions. I knew we were alone out here. However, as you all awoke, I came to realize that we would thrive being able to rely on each other.”
“Cheers.” Gamma raised his fork ceremoniously.
I ducked my head down, avoiding eye contact. The first words I had managed to arrange in my head beforehand, but I had yet to think of what was to come next. I felt at the paper of tally marks before me on the table.
“I would… I would assume that we would come across various hardships out here, as we have seen already.” I pursed my lips, glancing to Gamma once again. “At this moment… it seems we have enough supplies… food, to last another twenty days. For this moment, I am not sure of our next move.”
Beta clinked his fork down loudly, looking to the portion that had already mostly been eaten. “Twenty…”
Delta scooted his chair loudly. “What transmissions have you received?”
A few of the others turned his way. “Transmissions?” I said.
“If the radio antenna is not aligned…” He began again. “It is possible none may be able to reach us.”
I eyed Gamma, who returned a shrug my way. “I have not payed the slightest attention to anything resembling a dish or antenna outside.”
Delta shoved his seat back and stood up. “They are likely continuing to send a a transmission to relay to us our primary directions.”
“They?” I returned.
“They…” Delta repeated. “I can head out now and…”
“Hold it.” I raised my voice, causing a few of the other’s gazes to jerk my way. “It is dark. It may wait for morning hours.”
I suited up with Delta as the daylight found itself properly across the land. Gamma aided us in making sure the zippers were secure. Delta, before putting his helmet on, had given instruction to Gamma on how to speak to us over the radios in our suits from inside the station. There was a hand-held battery-powered handset in a compartment under a fastened covering in the wall of the airlock segment that Gamma would take to use and listen in on our progress.
Delta and I made our way outside after the brief moments between the sets of locking doors. The tint on my mask went dark automatically as I looked into the glow of the sun. Delta scanned the exterior roofs of the station’s interlocking compartments.
We took about a half lap around the station, examining the slight weathering of the exterior, before we came across a line of simple rungs offering a way up the side. Delta went up first, his head continuing to travel back and forth. “Anything up there?”
I heard the faint hum of Delta’s breathing and the air cycling in our suits. He found footing on the roof above, planting his feet and straightening his back up. “Maybe.” He glanced back at me as if his voice would travel better. I proceeded to follow him up.
The flat surfaces of the roof were coated in a fine covering of more of the red-orange dust. There were various bulkheads and sealed compartments jutting up from the surface, creating a labyrinth among the sections of building. There were fine seams where the sections of the station apparently went together at some point, being created to fit together modularly.
“I hear you stomping around up there.” Gamma’s voice cracked through the speaker. “See anything?”
Delta was gingerly making his way around a grouping of service areas at the south of the structure, above the room with the compartments we had come from. “This looks like it.”
I fumbled my way his direction, careful not to step too hard or lose my footing on the slippery dust. Atop the section was a wide array of thin, circular-tubed antennas, arrange around a dish-shaped contraption. It was dangling, precariously so, by a wide rubber-encased wire and a single mounting point upon a mangled bracket.
“It’s here.” I warned Gamma. “Got pretty beat up.”
“Delta, can you fix it?” Gamma’s voice returned to us.
Delta glanced up at me, the glare and dark tint obscuring his face. “Hold it in place, Alpha.”
I made my way around him and helped him fit it back into a place where the bracket would be able to tentatively hold it. I kept the wide dish steady in my hands, while Delta extracted a wide roll of shiny tape from his breast pocket.
He clumsily pulled at the edge of the tape with the ridges of the glove’s fingers before finally catching enough to pull on. His hands traveled back and forth around the metal fixture, encasing the broken bits in ever increasing layers of the vaguely elastic material. Delta finished by ripping away the remaining roll of tape and shoving it over his thumb.
“It’s in place.” I said for Gamma to hear, while I cautiously pulled my hands away from the array. It shifted ever so slightly, but held.
Delta looked to the sky and hazy clouds. “Gamma, you must tell us when it is aligned.”
Gamma huffed and hummed, the speaker far from his mouth. “I’m looking at the communications screen now. The graph is reading nothing but a flat line, a bit of static.”
Delta nodded slowly and pushed me back out of the way with his arm. He then crouched down and twisted the supporting pole of the dish, twisting it atop the adjustable base.
“I’m getting something…” Gamma spoke up again.
Delta continued fiddling with the contraption, looking to the edge of the dish, then back to the sky. “Where… is it supposedly pointing to?” I questioned, attempting to fathom to where Delta was aiming the thing.
“Ooh-” I heard Gamma exclaim through the speaker. “There’s something.”
I almost spoke up when I heard the faint crackling of a voice through the radio, one that did not belong to any of my crew-members. “-ee- s-t—n, c—e-n-. Gree-ation- co-in” It seemed to repeat the garbled message. Delta huffed and twisted the base of the antenna with a precise, forceful torquing of his hands.
“Greek Station, come in.”
“Do you hear that?” Gamma spoke over it.
“I do.” I hummed and looked to Delta. “Good job.”
Back inside, all of us crowded around the table once again while the message played over and over in a low drone. Delta fiddled with the portable receiver. “Why continue saying the same thing over and over?” Beta held at his ears, shaking his head.
Delta pursed his lips in concentration while Gamma loomed over his shoulder. “Likely it’s just a recording.” Gamma hummed.
The message died out, leaving only a crackling left. “Got it on transmit.” Delta decided.
“They are likely awaiting a response before they send anything else.” A few gazes turned my way.
I stood up from the chair and rounded the table. Gamma moved out of the way for me, and I found my eyes trailing toward the end of Delta’s finger, which was hovering above a ‘send’ button on the compact touch-screen readout.
“I assume…” I looked up, judging the other’s looks. “We should say that we hear them.”
Delta shoved his seat back. “I’ll give you the honors, then.”
I swallowed hard and leaned in before depressing the icon Delta had shown me. I licked my lips before I could find my words. “Greek Station, reporting.” I made out, taking my finger off the button with a jerk of my arm.
Epsilon’s chair creaked as he leaned back to stretch his feet out to the side. “And now we wait.”
“Wait?” Beta looked around. “For what? And how long?”
“Epsilon is right.” Delta tapped his foot. “Could be a while before they respond.”
“Who are they?” Zeta chimed in.
“They-” Delta shuffled around more, attempting to find the words. “Those who know what we’re doing.”
“We know what we’re doing, apparently.” Gamma huffed, crossing his arms, his back leaned against the back wall. “Else, we wouldn’t have made it this far. Isn’t that right, Alpha?”
I flapped my lips as I saw the others turn to me again. I glanced back at the receiver-transmitter, listening to the faint hum of static. “Obviously.” I managed to feign my composure. “But, like I said, we only have food for a certain few more weeks. If… if someone knows more than we do, out… there, there is nothing we lose from listening to them.”
The others sat in silence, glancing at their laps and the electronic on the table. Zeta folded her hands before her. “We have medical supplies for several months.”
“I checked too-” Epsilon spoke up. “The water filters have two thousand more cycles, more than enough. The reserves are filled nicely, and now properly filtering out any of the contaminates we saw.”
Delta held quiet as he peeked over my shoulder and began playing with one of the knobs on the receiver again. The message calling for ‘Greek station’ came on again with a low crackle. We listened for a few more repetitions when suddenly, it stopped.
I planted my hands on the table in order to anchor myself to listen better.
“Greetings, members of Greek Station.” The first words came. They were of a voice we had not heard before, yet somehow familiar to me. “If you are receiving this message, it means that all of you have come awake. We should hope that all systems are green, and that you have not come across any major problems thus far. That being said, we recognize you all as proper professionals, who are able to respond to any emergency that should arrive.
You should by now recognize that supplies are likely already short. For your awakening, more supplies have been sent to you. At this time, a supply pod is resting two kilometers west of your current position. It has enough rations for another two months, as well as various other supplies and tools you may find useful.”
The voice stropped abruptly and the transmission faded into a low hum of static. “Is… that it?” Beta leaned in, attempting to look at the screen. “What are we here for?”
Delta fumbled with the controls and flipped off the device. “They can’t here you. Rather, there is nobody there to hear you, at least now.”
I interrupted Beta with a sign of my hand. “Delta knows what he is talking about.”
Delta gave me a sideways glance of confidence. “Everything seems to be automated. We’re receiving the transmissions as necessary. There must be otherwise some sort of delay.”
“A delay…” Epsilon postured. “How so? For what reason?”
I looked about, hoping that someone would answer the question, but rather, some of the eyes turned towards me, some to Delta as well. “Wherever we came from… we are here now. And we have a mission.”
Gamma gave me a reassuring nod before he stood and stretched his arms up to the ceiling, his finger dragging across the smooth metal. “Well, since we know we will have ample food, I propose tonight that we have our fill.”
Zeta cleared her throat. “Remember that we have one toilet receptacle, and now six of us.”
Gamma strutted around the room, rolling his eyes. “Luckily, I’m, having my mac and cheese I’ve been saving. Anyone who chooses to get something with high fiber will have to make sure they are good at rock-paper-scissors.”
I smiled for perhaps the first time that I could remember since coming awake.
The collective hot meal brought further discussion of the station. Epsilon finished a bite of the spring vegetables before continuing his hopeful rant. “There are a few packets of seeds, but the label is long gone. They look like spinach seeds to me- the kind that will grow quick.”
“In what dirt, though?” Beta managed to utter around his mouth of mashed potato.
“Maybe… just the dirt outside?” Epsilon shrugged.
“Or maybe-” Gamma raised his finger, shoving his pasta to the back corner of his mouth. “Or maybe the have some nice soil on the supply drop.”
“No way.” Epsilon corrected him.
“Probably right.” Gamma second-guessed himself. “Too heavy?”
I carefully chewed away at the reheated ground steak, soaking in an oily sauce. I caught Delta glancing at me through odd bites. “Alpha-” He spoke lowly, as if to not draw extra attention. “You were the first to awake?”
“Yes.” I answered, not knowing how to embellish the response.
“The others seem to look up to you.” He finally decided to answer, before turning to the remainder of his meal.
Gamma tapped his fork loudly on the metal tray before him. “Alpha is always in thought, rather than running his mouth. He’s just that type.”
I wiped my mouth with the thin, cloth napkin and placed it on the table at the side of the meager bits of my remaining food. “I’ll be right back-” I stood, excusing myself. Some of the others took the chance to return to their conversations.
I went into the next room, around the corner just enough to be out of sight of the others. The deep orange sunset was just beginning to dissolve into the horizon, bringing with it the shadow of darkness. I stood, watching it until the orb of light had completely disappeared, when Epsilon came through the door.
“Good, you’re done in the bathroom, are you?” He perked up, passing me without another word.
I gave a hasty nod which was likely ignored as he pattered away into the neighboring chamber.