Nicholas Romero sat in front of his busy holomonitor manipulating it into a large variety of views, all of them readings on various wave frequencies of light, heat, sound, and electro-magnetism in ranges up to 115x the perception of the human senses. The craft he was stationed on was a UTF Exploration and Reconnaissance Vehicle, or ERV, called the SRC-ERV Trailblazer, SRC standing for Surrogate Research Center. It bore hundreds of micro scanners on all sides of its hull. The year was 547 Post Apocalypse and the Surrogate was still under UTF control; the Neo Galactic Militia hadn't been formed.
Nic glanced up from his work. Hugh Tann, one of the staff officers, was balancing a tray of several mugs of the semi-illicit drug on a platter. The UTF officially banned coffee for its notorious use as a recreational stimulant, but when a ship was assigned duty in the Prox system it was an unwritten requirement that all staff on duty surveying this unmapped sector of the universe drink the stuff on a regular basis.
Nic smiled and took a mug off the platter. He actually liked the idea of drinking something that humans hadn't had for almost 600 years. The coffee bean had only been cultivated when the Surrogate was found, which introduced thousands of plants and animals besides just coffee.
He turned back to his holomonitor and started analyzing the activity of the objects that the scanners picked up. He magnified the display on what looked like a large outcropping on the side of a moon. He shook his head as he realized that the gravity read was displayed in black, indicating less than average gravity for the moon. On closer inspection he realized that what he had first taken to be a small meteor crater actually had eight geometric sides. He dispatched an inspection drone to investigate further. The monitor flickered for a moment as it switched cameras to the drone, then he directed the chunk of hardware towards the anomaly. In moments there was a clear picture on his monitor of a definite building of some sort. It had to have been designed by something, but no humans had ever been out this far into the center of this system, and certainly not long enough to build anything.
He turned the drone around inside the station.
"SRC-ERV Trailblazer, report on your visual scan, over." It was a crackly transmission from the SRC base back on Vehera. Someone at the center was assigned to watch his monitor and look for anomalies just like he was. But the Surrogate only established contact with reconnaissance vehicles when they saw extremely interesting reports.
"I've got a drone down in a crater on the moon Arlon."
"That's no crater. Hold on, let me get an officer on this."
Nic breathed deeply. His heart was pounding. After what seemed like several minutes a new voice spoke over the comm. channel.
"Alright son, we're just now getting the recordings from that drone. Looks like you might have found the famous Arlon station."
"Sorry sir, what's that?" Nic had never heard of there being anything on Arlon.
"Just an old wife’s tale. I wouldn't get my hopes up about it too much. The thing's probably just some piece of metal lodged in the side of some moon."
Nic shook his head. That was no space debris. He was starting to make out what looked like computer consoles and storage crates scattered around the interior. Several walkways connected various zones. Pipes snaked across the chamber between them. Suddenly Nic realized that there was a light coming from one of the consoles. It flickered off for a second, and then came back on. His forehead was starting to perspire, even though the recon bridge was a little chilly. He eased the robot forward to the lit console and stared at its screen for a bit.
"What do you see now?" The officer's rough voice came through again.
"Um, some kind of computer console, sir. It looks like it's still working. Maybe I can even-" The drone's extended robotic arm coursed with energy as it connected with the console's screen. Green light energy coursed up a channel from the console to an apex in the center of the room. The bot's sensor's overloaded and it shut down. Nic quickly looked up from his whited out computer screen. A beam of bright white light burst up into space from the center of the hole. He stared in disquiet at the strange laser-like thing shining just a few hundred meters from the ship's bridge. Finally he realized his duty and tapped the comm. button.
"Sir, I just... the bot I sent down there touched... uh... some computer thing and..." He was at a loss for words.
"Son, what are you saying? Is there a white beam of light coming from the apex of the construct?"
Nic was amazed, "Yes sir."
"Well slap me silly. Son I'm going to wake your C.O., just sit tight."
In a moment Captain Youstan was in the room and on the primary communications console.
"This is Captain Youstan, reporting."
"Captain, I want you to send out an armed scouting party to investigate this... building we have here. Go ahead and wake your marine division and send them down to the site."
"Yes sir, is that all sir?"
"Do that for me and make sure your men don't get trigger happy. I don't want any of that equipment damaged."
"Yes sir, right away sir."
The Captain glanced at Nic and nodded. That was his sign of approval. Nic smiled slightly and turned back to his monitor.
In moments an armed squad of marines stood at the entrance to the small air lock. They were honestly only marines in name, as the UTF didn't bother to equip them with standard military gear. It was unlikely they would ever need any of it so the SRC was only given hand-me-downs or broken pieces of equipment from professional UTF divisions. This caused the soldiers using this gear to have to learn much about it and some even claimed that the reworked equipment was better than the newer supplies. They had adopted a sense of pride in knowing their guns more completely than the "professional" UTF soldiers. This only served to increase the disdain that the two factions held for each other.
They jumped out of the ship one by one until a full squad was on the ground. Captain Youstan spoke across the squad's comm. channel to the squad leader. No response.
"Alpha squad, I repeat, do you read?"
Still no response. The whole research team had woken up by then and was standing at the ship's windows watching the light or sitting at monitors and reading scan results.
"Sir, take a look at this readout." One of the team was holding his holomodel in the air as if against a light. "It looks like this beam has amplified radiation."
"What the hell? Do a full radiation scan of the construct. If our men are-"
At that moment a burst of deafening sound came from the left of the Trailblazer, indicating a ship had just re-crossed the sound barrier from faster than light travel inside the moon's atmosphere, which was considered rude. Common practice was to re-enter outside of the atmosphere and then travel without FTL engines activated to your destination.
"This is the UTC Kydoimos, Livia class. What've you got for us?" UTC stood for United Terran Corvette.
Captain Youstan nearly sprinted to the comm. controls, "This is Captain Youstan of the SRC-ERV Trailblazer, stand down. I repeat, stand down." Tensions were high. UTF Corvettes were rumored to shoot down SRC vessels and steal the credit for major finds, although evidence of this had never come up.
"Calm down captain. I want to help you with this. Keep it civil and no one will get hurt."
Youstan swore, this would mean that they would have to share credit for the find.
"The beam must have attracted them, damn insects." One of the standby soldiers muttered.
The UTF Captain's gravelly voice came over the mike, "We're sending down some men to scout the place out. Tell yours to stand down. Over and out."
Youstan swore again, "Captain, we have lost contact with our squad, there's some type of interference. Do not send any of yours down there. I can't guarantee that they won't be shot at. Do you read? Captain!?"
The line was dead. Youstan tuned the comm. radio to Alpha Squad's channel. "Alpha Squad, this is Captain Youstan, do you read?"
"The UTF is here and is sending down men. Do not fire on them, repeat, do not fire on the UTF Marines dropping now."
No response... a few slight bubbles of static that almost sounded like speech, and then the line went dead.
"Shit, command is gonna have my ass on a fucking platter for this." UTF Marines were dropping out of the back hatch of their corvette already.
"Jim, keep on this radio and try to contact the UTF. Nic, you get on Alpha's channel, uh, 173.9, and tell them to hold their fire." He was swearing profusely now.
Nick tuned his radio to the channel and started yelling into it while Youstan gave a preparatory speech to the remaining soldiers and sent them through the air-lock. He stopped mid-sentence and stared open-mouthed as the flashes of light started to appear inside the station. A chill went up his spine. He began to yell into his radio mike again. Youstan was standing with a face of stone at the foremost window on the bridge. Finally a gravelly voice came over the radio.
"What the hell do you think you're doing? If you wanted to see the UTF Marines at their finest, you just got yourself front-row seats. Enjoy the show, fucker!"