Alarmed – Althea turned, looking, searching – straining for the source of the sound. Glittering frost was falling from the vaulted ceiling high overhead. The rumbling changed into low splintering, cracking noise coming from above – no – it was coming from all around! Panicking, she stabbed repeated startup sequences on the unresponsive control board with her, again, cold-numbed fingers.
They had to reactivate the portal, regardless of the risk.
“Dorian, access the core system. Start up the portal! Do it now!”
That would be dangerous. There is still a significant risk the Macro–
–had a thread into the control system. It didn’t matter; they had to get out of here. The power surge created by her arrival must have damaged the frozen port’s delicate structural balance. Above her, the decades’ worth of ice that had built up was splintering apart. There was no time – no time at all!
“The whole port is beginning to collapse!” she shouted. “The ice is breaking apart. If we don’t get out of here now we’ll be buried!”
So intent on the controls, discovering where she’d transited to, she hadn’t even thought to pay any attention to what was happening in the chamber around her.
A monstrous crack of thunder reverberated through the still air.
“Now, Dorian. Now!”
The control fields shifted achingly slowly, board indicators flickered back and forth. Althea jumped in shock as a chunk of ice several times her size shattered on the floor just a five from her, the impact spraying her frost and slivers. Quick glances up told her that blocks as big as that one, larger were breaking loose, about to fall.
It’s taking too long!
Activating… activating. The circuits have been cut. Neither the primary nor the secondary are responding.
“Reroute,” she commanded. “There have to be redundant systems somewhere here. There are always–”
Several control panels went dark.
Parts of the frozen vault above, progressively – frighteningly larger – were falling now, and not just ice; chunks of the port’s structure were crashing down as well. Althea stared upwards, praying that the whole vault above wasn’t going to collapse on her before the portal re-activated.
The system has ceased. I cannot re-activate the portal.
She gaped at the board in disbelief, stabbed at the flickering interfaces in desperation.
Another thunderous crack, louder than before, reverberated around her. She glanced upwards, eyes widening in terror. The NANs in her body, now commanded by her overriding fear, tripped her perceptions up into overdrive, slowing everything around her to a perceptual crawl.
The falling blocks floated down towards her with glacial slowness. She could move, and move fast, but there was nowhere to run, nowhere safe she could reach. She had failed to reactivate the portal and any other exit was too far away. A vast section of the ceiling was separating, splintering – falling in massive pieces, straight down towards her.
“Oneness,” she forced out in a harsh whisper.
The spell broke, and she fell to her knees, lifting her arms up to block out the horrifying sight.