Part 4

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As they flew closer, it was clear that the damage to the portal was confined to one location. Unfortunately, that damage seemed to be rather severe, with the exterior surface missing in places. This revealed the sensitive equipment which generated and stabilised the traversable rift between universes.

"Taking readings now," Erica said, studying the field of debris around the damaged section of the portal.

Caroline slowed the shuttle to cautiously sweep around the portal while Erica conducted her initial scans.

"Hmm, good and bad news. There's no sign of radioactivity or other hazards. But the damage in the exposed section seems quite extensive. If I could get some scans of an undamaged section I might have a better idea of what we need to get it working again."

"I knew you were going to say that," Caroline said. "Alright, go suit up, I'm going to park as close to this thing as I can."

In the rear compartment of the shuttle, Erica tugged off her boots and uniform jacket, and slipped into one of the EVA suits with practised ease. When the helmet was in place and she had an airtight seal, she activated the suit's comm.

"All set back here. Go ahead and depressurise."

Caroline similarly checked that the cockpit had a good air seal before confirming. "Depressurisation commencing."

When the air in the rear compartment had been completely vented, Erica toggled the artificial gravity off, activated the rear hatch and secured herself to the shuttle with a line.

Her objective was dead ahead. She activated the thrusters on her suit for a little push in that direction.

As she neared the portal, Erica gazed around her. There were no stars here, but there was a diffuse glow from the edge of the pocket universe, something which they still didn't fully understand.

Of course, where there was light, there was energy, but what kind of energy, and how did it come to be converted into visible wavelengths of light?

Erica slowed her forward momentum with thrusters and finally made contact with the portal itself. "I'm here," she said, magnetising her boots and unclipping a scanner from her belt. "Continuing to take readings."

She trudged into one of the undamaged sections, occasionally checking her line to make sure it wasn't snagged on something sharp. It was dark, so she flipped her helmet light on to see.

The portal technology was quite remarkable, she thought, judging from the readings. It was a shame that the only chance to study it up close was through a hole punched in it with weapons fire.

As she passed through the undamaged section, she realised that for the most part, the portal was a modular structure. She couldn't even begin to identify all of the equipment, but knowing what it did, she could make some reasonable assumptions. Each module of the portal played a part in generating the dimensional rift. In order to repair the portal, it would be necessary to retro-engineer and produce equipment to replace what had been damaged.

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