2028. It's been five years since Joyce's passing. In this time frame, I had decided to look into a new deep sea excavation company. What intrigued me most about this was that Joyce's father had recommended them to me. The operation they were building towards didn't require the usual UDT(what does this acronym mean?)Training. Not just super project assembling, zero visibility training, offshore safety survival training, or recompression chamber operations. This was much different. Something he told me would change the course of my young life. I read that fateful email with the link to Aurora Marianus.
Orientation Day has arrived. I was taken within one of their new hydro-propulsion vessels, allowing for us to traverse 15,000 leagues towards their main facility. All without worrying about sudden compression. Just when I thought the trip was unreal, the facility's scale was even more of a site to behold. A neon blue luminescent dome in the very center, surrounded in four corners by towering spires of dark blue lights. Connecting them are glass encased pathways that not only link each spire, but also curve into a downward coil within smaller armored dome facilities. Beside their erect foundations are coiled ventilation tubes that sprawl their way to the top, emitting black smoke, much like deep sea vents do within the 2,000 leagues threshold. Something to it looks awfully familiar.
Before I even had time to soak the rest of it in, we were preparing to dock at their entrance tunnel. Small, illuminating rectangular fragments begin to surround themselves, and form the tunnel around our vessel. A small chime comes online within the transport.
“Initiating pocket decompression.”
The way it's shown to me,] the water is pocketed into the transforming tunnel. Next, the luminescent fragments cusp our vessel with the water intake, and in a near-instant, flashes to evaporate it into a steam vapor. The vapor then helps decompress the immense weight around the underwater vehicle, and then slowly takes us up by an elevated tube. Within 3 minutes of seeing the immense deep sea spectacles all the way to the top of the facility, the hole opens up atop of me.
“Pocket decompression complete. Welcome to Aurora Marianus.” As the compression dome around the transport unit unfolds, the door opens. I witness the immensity of the facility's scale. On the outside, it's covered within the aforementioned blue light. On the inside, the dome is encased in vastly lit geodesic patterns, supported by unique flying buttresses which would feed into the exterior tubed system into the smaller domes, as I have witnessed from the outside. Throughout the ground level, there are several diverging paths that would lead into the other code labeled territories of Aurora Marianus. Before it could all overwhelm me, I was then greeted by a man in a heavy navy blue three piece suit, with a large forehead, dark curly hair, and a small rugged beard, with a predominant pencil mustache.
“You must be the new arrival, yes? Welcome Joel Alistair!” As he spoke in a thick, French accent. “Oh! Hello!”
I come out of my brief wonderment to approach him to shake his hand firmly, and respectively.
“You'll have to forgive me, I-I just didn't think this place would be so–“
“Immaculate, ah of course! Well, you would not be the first! I'm Fabrice Otes, one of the co-founders of this very immaculate organization! I trust you have many questions about this facility, oui?"
“Y-Yes sir I do.”
“Merveilleux! Well, let's start our grand tour!”
He directs me over to the left divergent path of the main dome area.
“As I am about to show you, Aurora Marianus's dream was started by my close colleague, Baldur Aurora. He was a man who loved the ocean more than any can openly admit. Using his savings he accrued during his expeditions as an Icelandic fisherman, he grew tired of the local fisheries, and wanted to expand his endeavors. With the help of his uncle's connections, we were able to start realizing his vision. To explore the depths of all ocean life.”
Each glass encased hallway leading to the respective domed areas were engraved in varied décor of numerous fish from different sea zones. The northwest had Epipelagic fish, which would be the mess hall area. The northeast with the Mesopelagic fish, indicating their specialized compression tech area, where they would experiment with the state of the art tech suits, oxygen infused cores, and even new mobile suits for the deepest of divers. The southwest had Bathypelagic fish, showing what they aptly called the uber assemblage facility. This is where they would take repairs to several excavation tools, including state of the art GROVs, which were ROVs with remote controlled arms, as well as smaller scale underwater drones, and much more. The southeast had Abyssopelagic fish, where it showcases the maintenance area to keep most of the ventilation, centralized power grids, and servers to keep the documented research online at all times. Mr. Otes helps to interject my already curious mind.
“I'm sure you have already experienced the process that our technological advances have shown through the pocket decompression process. Here at Aurora Marianus, we take complete pride in perfecting our facilitations by ensuring our staff can work in a well oxygenated environment, regardless of the depths of the ocean. You must be wondering, how can a facility such as this operate in a rather hazardous, and bacterial zone? Well, we've conscientiously studied about advancing filtration systems through a rare approach no other man has achieved. It's through the wonders of hydrothermal ventilation!”
“You mean from deep sea vents and creatures within the Midnight Zone?”
“I knew you would catch on. See, much like how NASA and Space ForceX uses compressed oxygen units within their suits, Mr. Aurora wanted to expand upon their ideas and technological schematics by reverse engineering the process, and using the sea life itself as the forefront of his vision. 40 years of advancements later, we've finally created the next best achievement since, well, the first terraforming on Mars!”
Even throughout the whole tour, something feels missing. I decided to ask Mr. Otes in regards to this inquiry.
“Mr. Otes, I've realized that this facility only seems to have four out of the five zones covered. What about the Hadal Zone?”
A smile as wide as the continental rise forms over his face. He claps his hands together, and confidently makes his statement.
“That, Monsieur Alistair, is where your requirements shall be needed. Follow me.” We begin to take an elevator down from the maintenance area, and arrive in a moderately sized boxed facility, filled to the brim with cool colored computing hardware, and what appear to be floored docking bays with orbital vessels similar to the one I arrived in. Before me is a small team of lightly armored squadrons. Mr. Otes goes to their left side to introduce me to them all.
“This will be your designated crew to work with alongside your biggest job ever. They're code-named Iron Coop. The large man with the buzz cut, beard and glasses is Buchanan Higgins."
“Call me Bucky fer short! Good to meet you, good sir!”
“The properly groomed one next to him is Hollins Azure.”
“The dark haired young lady covered in art is Charis Babs.”
“Don't let the tattoos put you off sweetie, I'm quite friendly if you want me to be.”
Her wink makes me audibly gulp. Thankfully Mr. Otes continues before I have the chance to bumble my introduction.
“And the strapping fit young lady with the curled bun is Jenee Wiles.”
“Southern hospitality, and lord willin', a boot to put in yer face if you cross me. But you seem sweet enough, so welcome darlin'!”
I awkwardly rub the side of my right arm at some of their otherwise flirtatious comments.
“Good to meet you all! I'm Joel, and I look forward to working with all of you. So, Mr. Otes, what exactly is the assignment you have us doing?”
Before he has a moment to get his words processed, he is interrupted and coarsely shoved away by a moderately fit grey haired man with a thick southern accent.
“We're gonna be excavating an uncharted location that was once a civilization people dreamed of being the next Library of Alexandria, because it has something we want. That's where you come into play, fella.”
“*Ahem*, As their team leader, Evan Andre–“
“Captain Even Andrews, Otes. I needn't have to correct you again unless your accent is thicker than my brain power.”
“As...Captain Even Andrews has brashly explained, your mission is to head to an underwater wreckage site that most of society deemed only but a fairy tale from ages past.”
Those words set me in a state of slight confusion, only to come to a sudden realization.
“Unreal....You mean, you've found it? You've...found Ballistire?”
The intercoms chime with an alluring female voice.
“Activity has been detected.”
“Well, shall you see for yourself, Monsieur Alistair?”