Lost in a Sea of Stars–The Grave Beyond
I’d like to say it is cold, that we are in the center of some tomblike cask of metal but it would be such an exaggeration that I’d be doing the gravity of the situation a deep injustice. The air is meticulously conditioned, the temperature is perfect, and the lighting is adequate and simulates our home sun’s wavelength down to the millionth decimal place.
No, while space outside is bombarding our ship with life rending radiation, the ship is doing its part and keeping us entirely shielded. The cold vacuum of eternity is tugging relentlessly on the other side of these walls and we could very easily be none the wiser.
But it would make me happier, it would help to instill the sense of urgency that I feel we need. It would help us all quickly come to terms with the problem at hand.
“I still think I could have killed them.”
I looked at Thane, his hand gripping a stick of dried meat. He tears off a piece and grinds it between his thick hammer-like teeth.
“I wasn’t worried about you Thane.” I respond. “I was worried that we’d all be dead by the time you had finished with the last of them.”
“Fair enough. But where did pacifism get us now? This ship is equipped with an F class engine, which is more an insult than a blessing.”
Thane’s jet black eyes pierce into my own as we speak. I can’t argue with him, this shuttle is meant more as a last ditch option in case of critical system failure of the mother ship. Like a life preserver in the center of the ocean, it is better than the alternative but not by much.
I can tell that Dim is equally unhappy with our choice to flee the ship. While he plots our location in the navigation system he grumbles, muttering under his breath. He had brought some of his favorite weapons on the trip, something that still unsettles me in hindsight. Dim is a small man, thin, not build for hand to hand combat, but what he lacks in physical prowess he makes up for with incredible accuracy. It is, unfortunately, his lack of self preservation that makes him a liability more than an asset in a fight. I speak not from experience but this is what his evaluation to join the team detailed. You cannot, however, argue with his unequalled piloting abilities and so with us he came.
“I had brought my favorite cell displacer. My favorite one. My father gave me that gun.” He squawked. “Someday I’ll find out who those men were and I’ll get it back, they’ll rue the day.”
Thane gripped his free hand. “I’ll join you. It sounds to me like we’ve established an incentive for survival.”
“So survival was not an incentive enough for you?” I reply.
“Exactly.” Claire rolls her eyes.
“Not always, no.” Thane tears another piece of meat.
Dim holds a hand up above his head, silencing us all. “Alright, so here is where we are.” He points to our tiny grey blip on the readout. The image begins to balloon out in all 3 dimensions. Renderings of stars spin slowly in the air at the center of the navigation room.
“As you can see we are pretty screwed.” He points to a nearby star. “This is the closest star, we’d only die about five years and seventeen days before we reached it.”
“How long will it take us to reach it?” Claire inquires.
“If the system is working, it would take us about 5 years and 77 days.” He holds up his fingers and pinches the air. “Missing it by that much.”
Ghein hurriedly writes some notes down on her glass pad, I can’t see the specifics from here but the glow of red ink flashes across the surface as she writes.
“This is all presuming that we stay conscious for the trip.” I interject. “We could very well go into stasis after setting the ship up for a contact course with that planet.”
Ghein nods. “Great minds.”
“I’m flattered, but there aren’t all that many options in here.”
Ghein looks up and smiles at me, her freckles reorganize across her cheeks. I can’t help but create constellations in my mind each time. Always looking for a new puzzle to solve, I suppose.
“Still, it’s the best option. If we go into stasis we’ll be able to set up the ship to use considerably less energy for the trip. We could probably reach an even further location if we so desired.” She took a few steps forward and looked at the star and its designated title. “Better still, this is a member of the Scicaghe project.”
I hadn’t even realized, that had not occurred to me this entire time. The Scicaghe was a great project a thousand years ago where our ancestors sent out shuttles to far off solar systems. These ships fired off modules that made every planet habitable, or at least that was the objective. It’s still not fully known how well the project worked and for the most part our races have not expanded very far, a few solar systems at best is the most common consensus.
“So once we land there will be things to eat. That’s good news.” Thane stretches, obviously pleased at the prospect of a planet sized dining room.
“We’ll need to be careful when we arrive, habitable and comfortable are greatly different.” Claire says. She is correct too, where this ship may be an oasis in the center of a desert, so too can a forest be as dangerous as the voids of space.
But at least in that situation we have the potential of survival.
“Do you think we’ll find anything there? It’s been a thousand years of accelerated evolution, we need to be cautious of disease. If anything there has evolved to survive in hosts similar to us we could die from disease.” Claire frowns, I can tell her mind is running wild with apocalypse scenarios.
“More an issue for you than I, I say we go and you can slap on a body suit when we leave the ship.” Thane straightens himself, he towers over the rest of us. Thane is a metahuman, his ebony skin is as hard as stone yet as flexible as weaker flesh. He is descended from a warrior race, said to have battled great sky beasts in our more archaic history. It’s fascinating, as is he, but it does seem to give him a gross lack of understanding about the dangers of humanoid life. While most diseases cannot infect his people they can quite easily kill myself, Claire, or Ghein outright.
Death by some super strain is quite unappealing, I’ve never been a fan of vomiting or bleeding to death. Also not much of a fan of Shellfish, but that’s another story.
“True, suits will protect us from microorganisms, but what about the macro?” I reply.
“What? Like a wolf or something?” Dim says, his brow cocked. “You really think those probes were able to make full mobile organisms?”
“It’s not totally implausible, is it?” I look to Claire for backup, am I totally out of line?
“It’s not likely, but I suppose we don’t know the full rate of advance. Most of the planets that have been colonized since the project have been greatly altered by the inhabitants, that skews any data we might have on the subject.”
“So what we’ll do, is if we see any big beasties outside we’ll just open the door and slap Thane on the ass. A couple hours later and I’m sure we’ll have a nice perimeter that no creature will dare enter.” Dim grins.
Thane tilts his head and looks down at Dim. “I accept the challenge, but if you slap my ass I will use you as bait.”
Dim shrugs. “Fat lot of good that’ll do you, look at me?” Dim points to his thin frame. “Anything of danger will pass me up for sure.”
Thane throws the last bit of meat into his mouth. “The little bites are usually the tastiest, they just never last long enough.”
“So Ghein, how long will it take to prepare the stasis for the trip?” I ask.
“No more than an hour, I’ll just plot in a day prior to connection and we’ll wake up in time to land the ship safely.” She takes a slight bow. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get started so we can all take a nice nap.”
Thane makes his way to the door, pausing only to update us on his own plans. “I’ll confirm the engine will make it, I am not in the mood for any more surprises.” He’s gone before I can even get a nod off.
“It’s a good thing this ship is so small.” Dim points to the trajectory. “We won’t be hidden by any sort of stellar bodies, stars, meteorites, nothing. But as long as we are radio silent the entire way we’ll be basically invisible.”
Claire frowns. “Basically.”
“Don’t fret. The odds of us getting caught are almost inconsequential.” He replies.
“We’ve already been caught.” I reply.
“Again, I mean, getting caught again.”
I look to Claire and shrug. “Sounds good to me, we can’t very well wait to be rescued. Might as well set out for this planet and then figure out what to do from there. Best case scenario we’ll be able to set up a hub on that planet and wait for rescue with a much larger window of survival.”
“And worst case scenario?” She replies.
“Well, worst case scenario we end up on our own personal galactic gravesite.”
Art by: Makubi