The Nautilus Science Facility, built within an especially rocky area of the Broken Shores beachfront, serves as the most advanced science station outside of Trans-Hub.
In the years before the Arclight crash, this was a minimum-clearance oceanic research outpost which was tasked with menial studies; the artificial growth of coral, the study of Skivers in an aquatic environment, and so forth.
When the Melding came and swallowed the globe, this facility – one of the few still remaining – became the epicenter for scientific research into the effects of the Melding. Previously spearheaded by Dr. Mitra Bathsheba, the research that has come from this facility has saved untold lives, and helped to keep the Accord in the fight against an increasingly overpowering enemy force. However, much of what goes on within the Nautilus Science Facility remains a mystery – one which I hope to shine light on.
After much back and forth, I’ve secured a brief interview with Dr. Maxwell Benton, one of the lead researchers at the facility. The terms of the interview are being set by the Accord, as security at the facility is tight. Hopefully I’ll find what I’m looking for…
As I approach the gate to the Nautilus Science Facility, I’m met by two Accord soldiers, one an old veteran and the other a fresh by-the-books recruit. They carry their Plasma Cannons at the ready as they approach me. “Excuse me,” one shouts at me, keeping a safe distance from my parked Chopper.
“Can I help you?”
“I’m here for Dr. Benton,” I say to them as I dismount. To my shock one of the soldiers immediately raises his Plasma Cannon at me, ready to fire. Instinctively I raise my hands to show that I’m unarmed.
The other places his hand on the Cannon, and addresses me. “Who sent you?”
“I’m Emmanuel Almas,” I tell them. “I’m here to talk with Dr. Maxwell Benton. I’ve been talking to the Accord for weeks about setting this up.”
The young soldier maintains his position, the gaping maw of the Plasma Cannon pointed directly at my face. As the young soldier keeps me in his sights, the older soldier leans over and whispers in his ear. The look on the young soldier’s face morphs from an intense, untrusting glare to a somewhat more reserved, if no less intent, gaze. His plasma cannon slowly lowers to his side as the older soldier takes a step forward.
“Pull your bike into the garage,” the older soldier orders. “Dr. Benton will meet you there.”
I climb back onto my Chopper and drive it through the gates and into the garage directly to the left. As I dismount my bike and turn around, I’m greeted by three men approaching me from the building in the distance. Flanked by two men in heavy dreadnaught battleframes is a smaller man in a white lab coat. The man in the white lab coat approaches, a step ahead of his guards, and extends a hand.
“Hello, I’m Maxwell Benton.”
“Dr. Benton,” I say as I take his hand. “I’m Emmanuel Almas. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“The pleasure is mine.” Benton walks me out of the garage and past the armed guard. As we make our way about ten feet away, I hear the familiar clanking of the dreadnaught’s feet striking against the ground. I think they’ll be accompanying Dr. Benton and I for the duration of this interview.
“So what has you so eager to see me, Mr. Almas?”
“Well,” I tell him. “This place has become something if an urban legend ever. Ever since Dr. Bathsheba’s disappearance, this place has seemingly been on lockdown and people are wondering what, exactly, you do here.”
“We research the Melding,” he says, quite coldly. “Because of the nature of our research, we want to make sure that the details of our research don’t extend beyond these walls. However I’ve heard some of the more colorful theories and to put everything to rest – no, we aren’t attempting to breed Melding-altered creatures. No, we aren’t trying to recreate the Melding wall. And no, we are not exposing humans to the Melding.” We continue to walk towards the large building as we talk. “Not living ones, anyways.”
“In the past we’ve used cadavers – donated ones, mind you – to see if there were any properties to reviving the dead. Let’s just say that our findings were inconclusive.”
“So you have tested on humans?”
“All cadavers were donated for scientific research. No laws were broken, no ethics were violated.” We pass one guardrail and walk to another, which overlooks the central area. From here I see a large crane slowly lowering equipment into place, though my view of what is down there is obstructed.
“What’s going on down there?”
“We’re readying ourselves for an experiment. I can’t go into detail for obvious reasons but the data, potentially, could shift the balance of the entire war effort in our favor.” He begins leading me away from the guardrail. “If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you why I agreed to talk to you…”
Dr. Benton leads me into a large, open room where two more armed Accord soldiers guard the door. Passing into the room, I take in the sterile appearance of the equipment, and the large crystite generator which hums in far corner of the room. In the center of the large room, however, is the main attraction.
I have never seen anything like it before. Horribly twisted by the Melding, its insides mangled, it stands in stasis. Its face is twisted, frozen in agony while its overgrown arm rests against the ground. Large sacks on its head and back glow the eerily familiar fluorescent purple that has become synonymous with the deadly curtain. I examine it as best I can from the other side of the thick glass.
“What is it?”
“We have no Earthly idea,” he says. “Nobody had ever seen anything like it until a few weeks ago. When they started appearing, we made it our top priority to capture one and bring it back for study. We wound up being able to recover three of them – one of which you see here.”
“But… it almost looks--”
“Human?” He interjects. “Yeah, I know. But we’ve run tests, and we’ve run tests on the tests, and we ran tests on the machines to make sure that the tests on the tests weren’t mistaken.”
“Inconclusive.” Benton approaches the tank, his arms crossed. “In fact, the only thing I can tell you for sure is that this tortured soul, whoever or whatever it was, did not go peacefully.”
We stare at the creature for another few moments, neither of us making a sound. Seeing its mouth stretched and twisted makes the hair on my neck stand at end, and when I glance over I can see that Dr. Benton is feeling no more at ease than I. Finally, Benton begins to walk towards the exit. I pull myself away from the glass case and follow after him.
“So where are we headed next,” I naively ask him.
Benton nods. “I’ve shown you something that nobody outside of this facility has seen up close. Plus the rest of this facility is under heavy security. You would never be granted clearance to see the other labs.”
“But why did you want to show me that,” I ask him.
“Because people need to know what’s out there. They need to be informed that this is something they need to be thinking about, planning for, and losing sleep over. The people of New Eden need to know that if they aren’t careful out here, outside of Copa or Sunken Harbor, it’s dangerous. This could be their ultimate fate.”
“But you don’t even know if they’re human. The thought could scare the masses.”
We stop, and Benton turns his head towards me. His gaze is cold, devoid of empathy or sympathy, as his hands slip from his sides into the pockets of his lab coat.
“The people need to be scared.”
Benton stares at me a moment before turning and continuing towards the garage.
“Because the world is a dangerous place, Mr. Almas. It’s time that people start to realize that.”
We finish our walk back to the garage and after a firm handshake Benton turns and starts walking towards the large research building. As he walks away, the two dreadnaught guards stand firm at the entrance to the garage – I assume they’re waiting for me to depart. Without saying a word, I mount my Chopper and pull out of the garage and out of the base.
Rather than return to Sunken Harbor, I peel off the road leading from the research facility and onto another nearby road, heading north towards the remains of Broken Shores. If I can’t find anybody here who’ll talk to me, maybe the Accord researchers there will be more helpful…