On the Intergalactic Space Station, there is no such thing as night or day – only the cold; only darkness. To conserve energy, given their distance from the closest sun, the crew has to maintain limited station activity at all times, especially when most the crew is asleep. For Dr. Harry Boyd, however, it is the only time he can acquire answers to questions Captain “Rex” Mitchell would rather keep in the dark.
“There must be something else you can remember,” pleaded Dr. Boyd under his breath, ensuring none of the crew awakens to his nefarious Q&As.
A faint, blue light outlining a human head stares for a moment with a blank expression on its face. That face was of the now-deceased crewman Jaren Summers – an uploaded, sentient avatar of the hot-headed Xicana astroarchaeologist. “Tell me, Dr. Boyd…how can I be dead when I feel so alive?”
One year before, back at the Command Station near the edge of the Triangulum Galaxy, Captain Mitchell is debriefed on him and his crew’s upcoming mission to explore a recently discovered planet – labeled Delta X413.
“Captain, I don’t have to explain to you the importance of this mission,” said Admiral Jeffrey Knox with an earnest expression on his face, as if what is being told isn’t the entire story. “You will crew three others of your choosing. Make sure they are adequately informed of the mission, but only the mission! Is that understood?”
“Yes, sir,” responded Captain Mitchell, with an unconditional tone only the most disciplined and reliable can acquire. Nothing will stop him from doing what he is ordered.
Half an hour later, twenty-three decks below the Admiral’s office, Captain Mitchell has gathered his crew. The whirring of cleaner ‘bots could be heard throughout the halls, with one stationed on each deck. A noise the Captain and his crew are anxiously awaiting to alleviate as they leave for their mission.
“Them bloody robo-caretakers are ‘bout 5 seconds away in getting a size 12 up their mechanical arses,” colorfully complained Commander O’Connell while smoking on a digi-pipe, having been subjected to such a noise all his life. He was born on the ISS-4 – an exploration vessel of the Command Station – during a three year away mission twenty-eight years ago.
“For once I agree with you,” reluctantly exclaimed Jarren Summers. “I can’t wait to get out of this space bucket. Then again, I hear the planet we’re studying is a wasteland. Why in the hell is the Admiral so damn curious about this planet?”
“Summers, I exclusively picked you for this mission because of your expertise in astroarchaeology,” said the Captain with a slight grin on his face. “If you feel that you’re better needed here on this…what did you call it, a “space bucket”?…then I’m sure I can find somebody els…”
“Whoa, wait. I didn’t say I wasn’t up to it. Just a little…well…curious as to the reasoning for this mission. Usually the Admiral has a reason for long-range missions – resource extraction, extraterrestrial observation, anything really!”
Looking over the planet’s specs using her computer interface implant, “I see nothing on this planet worth exploring…let alone sightseeing.”
“Are we still talking ‘bout the planet, or yah birthplace back on Earth?,” O’Connell callously joked.
As tensions between O’Connell and Summers were about to reach its peak, the sound of a heavy chime could be heard. Someone was at the door. The Captain approaches the door and opens it, only to find an android on the other side.
“The Admiral has asked me to inform you that the ISS-4 is ready when you are,” gracefully said the android.
“Thank you. But we’re still waiting for Dr. Boyd to show up so we ca…”
“Dr. Harry Boyd is with Admiral Knox, waiting for you by the exit.”
Why was the Doctor with Admiral Knox? How did he know that Dr. Boyd was who he’d chosen for the mission given not but a half an hour ago? These were the questions going through the Captain’s head, feeling slightly left out of an unknown matter.
“Alright, you guys. Let’s get moving,” said the Captain, turning back to his crew. “We don’t want to keep the Doctor and Admiral waiting.”
As they reach the exit, they notice Dr. Boyd shaking the Admiral’s hand. As the Doctor notices the team approaching, he picks up his things and makes his way to the station.
“Good luck to you and your team, Captain,” said Admiral Knox as he reaches out his hand in farewell.
“And to you, as well, sir.”
Before reaching the exit, the Captain stops himself for a moment, looking over his right shoulder toward the Admiral.
“Sir…is there something else about this mission that I and my team need to know about?”
Feeling somewhat interrogated, the Admiral turns away and heads back to his office. Unknown to both the Captain and Admiral, Summers heard everything.
Back at the station, just above orbit of Delta X413,
“Why was the Admiral so damn reluctant to answer the Captain’s question,” demanded Jaren’s avatar. “Why were you shaking the Admiral’s hand before that? What the fuck is going on, Doc?”
A faint sound from behind the Doctor could be heard. Frightened, Dr. Boyd quickly does an about-face only to see the Captain emerge from the darkness, arms crossed, looking as if he could kill him right there without hesitation.
“Yes, Doctor,” curiously exclaimed the Captain, “what the fuck is going on?”
*Check In Next Week For Next Episode*
Read part one :Here
Photo Credit: Sara-Matte
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