Chapter 29: EPILOGUE, Remnant sneaks off

15th December, 3517 AD

Hegaine Republic space

Photele Pulsar system, Photele-3

Over a month since the events of what was now considered the 016 Incident, and the Quarantine Fleet had finished the most prioritized repairs to Photele-3's station. The Helium-3 supplies from the dimly lit gas giant's aerostat stations in its upper atmosphere provided the energy, and propellent via skimming ships, needed to ensure the station was brought back into full operation, a crucial need considering the heightened security that would come with reengaging the wormhole to the more amicable faction of the Xarai that had defected, Deviated, from GHEXRAX's will.

But to those brought in to service the station, they were not privy to the true purpose of the research the station did and would be sent away once repairs were completed. Rudimentary work happened, as did maintenance events, and there was seemingly little to fear from such day to day affairs.

A defective series of sensors on Aerostat rig 23 was nothing to cause alarm, the gas giant's electrical storms often shorted out the more delicate electronics on the rigs. For the construction ship crews that required the fuel reserves to be shipped to haul around the cargo needed for the research station repair, it was a simple matter of sending a repair bot down with the ship that docked with the aerostat for the next reactor fuel pickup.

Docking clamps and armature claws raised the aerospace craft into the hanger as usual, and the bot disembarked to check over the static affected sensors, allowing the auto-feeders to pump the liquified Helium-3 isotopes into the holding cells of the craft's cargo bay.

After a quick repair, a last interface with the rig's systems was all it took to bring them back online, the logs indicating no unusual incidents with the aerostat as usual, with the exception of a ship docking over a month ago as the last part of the skirmishes, an emergency landing needed for an AI uplink of an ally at that time to occur.

In the seconds that passed during the repair drone's system interfaced, it detected Ai micro-fragments, but not of the AI, nor of any registered as friend or foe, but one bearing the date of the incident. In the next second, its programming began to loop, before returning to normal, noting no anomaly.

With the exception of a brief series of programming looping happening after the interface began, the sensor repairs were an easy fix, and the drone, its programming noting a slight improvement in processing efficiency, was the last object aboard the automated aerospace craft before it dropped from the aerostat floating rig, engaging its plasma engines to make yet another deliver of valuable fusion reactor fuel. The drone's improvement vanished the moment it docked with its parent cargo ship, and no other unusual, minor software efficiency spikes occurred during the rest of the move of a key series of hull armour panels for the station.

By the week's end, the larger cargo vessel that the shipment aerospace craft had docked with was ready to embark for a supply run, a collection of specialized quantum chips needed that couldn't be manufactured on sight due to specialized manufacturing needs. When the crew isolated the nav computers for the warp, the was a brief flicker of the screens the moment the comms were shut off pre-jump, but not one long enough to prompt more than a confused shrug from the ship's mostly Kronogri crew.

If anything, as the ship carried out its duties, they noticed a slight improvement in a wide array of computing processes, though this improvement vanished the moment they arrived back in more transited space and linked to the nearest wormhole comms array to the wider networks.

It would be dismissed as a fluke, an unusual efficiency that wouldn't turn up again ever after checking the systems, a ghostly anomaly in the systems that came and went with barely a trace besides the subdued code micro-fragments that were too self-deleted to read.

No thought was paid to it, an anomaly so insignificant and hard to spot, especially when it vanished into the wider networks to likely never be found again.

Elsewhere, 10,000 light years from charted space, far from the Quarantine Zone as well, the dissipating radio waves emanating from a now-gone wormhole echoed with a more pronounced, clear but similarly subdued digital 'ghost', its subdued bursts of signal spreading through what was once a core system of a civilization that existed for certain 100,000 years prior, and might still endure, just as the digital remnant did as it snuck into the Charted space networks.

As for its purpose, even its rudimentary programming from the micro-fragments it was made from did not know, not yet.