146 Descent into Fog
Zoey's appearance on the bridge had gotten everyone's attention, and shortly they had all put away their things and gathered around the Captain's chair. Zoey then used her interface to put another new feature she had installed to use.
Between the Captain's chair and the front of the bridge she had installed crystal projectors, one in the floor and one in the ceiling. When she activated them, they displayed whatever she selected with her interface as a 3D holographic image. In this case, Zoey had selected the networked vision of all her high altitude drones to be displayed as a map for them to view.
When the 3D image came to life, hovering in the air before them, everyone exclaimed in surprise at the realistic detail that was depicted in the model. In the center of the 3D image was the Stella Tenebris, making her way across the wasteland several hundred meters above the ground. Around the tiny model of the airship they could see the barren land stretch out around them with not a single landmark worth noting.
This was the first time that any of them besides Zoey had seen something like this and Zoey got a good laugh out of watching them try to touch the 3D projection of the map. Zoey showed off a little by zooming the map in on the Stella Tenebris and letting them admire the details of the model. After they had their fun with the hologram, she zoomed back out to see what her drones had warned her about.
"What the hell is that?" Baiken exclaimed quietly as they saw the projection.
It was still a number of kilometers away, but the trail they had been following was leading directly to a massive sinkhole that quite literally seemed to appear out of nowhere. It was massive, not quite as big as the crater where Zoey had first met Athena, but it was almost five kilometers from one side to the other!
There was also a strange fog that lay over the sinkhole, fog so thick that the her drone over the site at the moment could not penetrate through to see what was below. One thing was for certain though, it was considerably deeper than the crater was.
"It's as if that monster crawled out of the bowels of the earth itself," Ssaul murmured.
General Saigo also nodded and said, "It seems the source is in that hole... What could be down there?"
"Whatever it is, it needs to be stopped," Zoey said with quiet certainty in her voice.
The others could see cold steel behind her emerald eyes as she looked at the map. They had all gotten to know each other a little better over the last few days, but Zoey was still a mysterious conundrum to them. She was quiet, reserved, but when she smiled or laughed, it seemed as it the world itself was smiling and laughing with her.
On the other hand her mysterious power was also a little scary to them. They had witnessed her summon a massive airship from thin air, and kill a corrupted creature that would have killed all of them with a single shot.
Max was actually the reason that any of the Asurai could be comfortable around the mysterious, exotic beauty that seemed almost ethereal to them. He was never far from Zoey, and followed her like a loyal pup when he was not with the General. When those two were together, everyone seemed to be affected by the calming atmosphere around them, and their fear of Zoey seemed to disappear.
They had all only just started to get to know Zoey, and they could all see her determination to put a stop to whatever had spawned that monster. Not only that, they all had a strange confidence that despite the overwhelming power that they had experienced from the creature back in the canyon, Zoey would find a way to succeed.
They continued to watch in silence as the Stella Tenebris approached the fog-shrouded gaping maw, the small shape of the cruiser seeming incredibly small against the several kilometer wide sinkhole. All of them were a little jarred by the sheer scale of what they were seeing on the map.
It wasn't long before they all moved to the front of the bridge, they were getting close. Through the haze of the wasteland they could vaguely make out a dark line on the horizon that was gradually growing more pronounced as the cruiser drew closer to the sinkhole.
As they flew closer, the air outside of the cruiser seemed to thicken and darken, causing the light from the sun above to dim as they approached. The closer they flew, the more pronounced this effect became until it seemed as if they were under a thick blanket of miasma.
By the time Zoey brought the ship to a hover on the edge of the sinkhole, the sun was only a dim shape in the now muddled, grey sky, giving the the area a gloomy appearance. Far below they could see the sea of fog in the hole roiling about as if it was alive.
Zoey sent a drone into a dive into the hole, hoping to get a sense of what was down there before she took her cruiser into the unknown abyss. She then turned to watch the map as the drone penetrated the fog on its way down.
It's visual range was severely limited, so going was slow, but Zoey was slowly starting to get a better idea of what it was like down there. It was deep, ridiculously deep. The drone descended in a spiral along the outer edge of the hole, and it soon passed over a kilometer of depth with more to go.
From the imagery that the drone was sending back, Zoey could now see that the sinkhole was getting narrower the further down the drone went. The sheer size of it was astounding, and as the drone kept going deeper, it was starting to seem like this hole would lead directly to the center of the planet itself!
But, after the drone had descended over ten kilometers, it found the bottom. Everyone was speechless now that they could see the complete picture of the sinkhole. Over five kilometers wide and ten deep, shrouded in miasma and fog, this was not a friendly place.
One thing that stood out to Zoey however was the fact that is seemed almost unnatural. The walls of the sinkhole were a little too flat, too straight, and did not look like a natural event. The bottom as well did not look like a proper sinkhole, instead showing a flat floor littered with the occasional fallen rock and debris.
It was almost as if this place had been intentionally created by someone...
"704, take us down," Zoey said quietly.
The cruiser slowly started to move, descending down into the fog. Darkness fell on the bridge as the Stella Tenebris entered into the sinkhole, the fog concealing everything outside the bridge windows as they descended.
Suddenly, Zoey got an alert from her drone down below.
There was a corrupted down there!