Authors: Colin Weldon
“Doctor, I would like you to work with Tyrone to get the engines back up to nominal capacity. As you know, for some reason the time dilation during the hyperspace jump has been over a thousand years,” he said sighing. He hadn’t meant to show his reaction to the shocking news so obviously, but the reality of it suddenly struck him hard.
“A thousand fucking years,” said Tosh shaking his head, “What the hell happened? Do we even know if they’re alive?”
Barrington shook his head.
“I can’t see how, but it may be time to figure that out and jump back to see. I would rather not have another thousand years pass by without knowing,” he said.
Barrington’s thoughts drifted back to Chancellor Sienna Clarke’s last message before they parted. She would be long dead, but maybe ... just maybe.
“Well, Doctor, we could sure use that big brain of yours down here, so maybe if we put our noggins together we can figure this out,” said Tosh to Tyrell. There was a moment of tension between the two of them. Barrington thought it best to let them sort it out so he nodded and turned to leave. He walked out of the engine room and into the halls of The Agathon. As he was passing through the corridors, a thought suddenly struck him that stopped him in his tracks.
En route to the Aristaeus system, there had been an explosion on deck three which had blown a hole in the hull. Boyett had discovered evidence of an explosive material coating the walls surrounding the blast point and it hadn’t yet been determined as to its cause. He watched and nodded to the crew and passengers as they passed him in the halls.
Was there a saboteur on board his ship?
The comm device on his wrist bleeped.
“Boyett to Captain,” his first officer said.
He tapped his wrist.
“Captain here, go ahead,” he said.
“Sir, we have a relative position established. I think you should see this,” she said.
“On my way,” he said closing the channel and making his way to the nearest lift.
The view screens were lit up overhead as Barrington entered the bridge.
“Report,” he said.
Boyett turned in her flight chair and pointed up at them. Each one showed a different angle of the same vista. Two large white stars, in what seemed to be a synchronous orbit filled the screens. One of them was pulsating regularly. The white light was so intense that it filtered through the view screens and flickered all over the surfaces of the bridge consoles. Jerome Young was staring up at the sight with his mouth open.
“It’s a binary star system,” Boyett said.
“Magnificent, isn’t it?” Jerome Young said, still staring at the screens. Barrington’s training rarely left room to admire scientific discoveries without immediately running a thousand threat analyses on them. He walked to the centre of the bridge and took a seat in the captain’s chair.
“Situation Report, Lieutenant,” he said to Boyett, trying to snap her back to reality. She took the hint and sat upright punching commands into her flight control panel.
“Sir, the star system seems to comprise three extrasolar planets orbiting the two stars. I have not seen this configuration of planetary bodies before. Perhaps Doctor Tyrell would be better suited to advise on that. Two of the planets are orbiting the pulsar, with the third in an elliptical orbit almost at right angles to the plain of the larger one.
There seems to be an atmosphere present on the lone orbital planet, although we’ll have to get a bit closer to take a look,” she said.
“Look at this, John,” Jerome Young said from the navigational console. Barrington rose from his seat and joined the Jycorp CEO at the computer console. Displayed on the screen was a computer generated image of the orbital paths of the three planets as they circled the two stars.
“They intersect?” Barrington said looking at the image. It showed the path of the lone planet almost coming into contact with one of the two smaller planets orbiting the pulsar.
“Almost, but not quite. According to this, every six hundred and thirty-two days, they come so close that their atmospheres almost touch,” Young said.
“How is that possible?” Barrington said.
“You got me. But if there is atmosphere, and it is not made of some sort of killer robot material, might be worth a detour. We could at least put the ship down and take stock of any damage,” he said.
Barrington looked up at the view screens and thought about it. He thought back to the alien races he had seen transformed into mechanical duplicates. There were thousands of them. The notion that humans were alone in the universe was definitely defunct and the last two planets they had visited had almost destroyed the ship. He was beginning to regret not installing weapons on The Agathon. They had little or no defence against attack, other than hand to hand combat. He thought about trying to reacquire contact with the Jycorp Orbital stations to see if there was anyone left alive.
“You’re thinking weapons, aren’t you?” Boyett suddenly said, interrupting his train of thought. Barrington looked at his first officer and smiled nodding.
“I have been thinking about that. Sir, there may be a way of adapting the ship to incorporate pulse cannon technology by retrofitting two of the cargo bay doors. But in order to do that we have to land. We can replicate components and with Tosh and Mr Young’s expertise,
I think we can do it. Landon mentioned specs that he had already drawn up, but due to the crisis we never got to fully test the feasibility of them,” she suddenly said dropping her eyes. Barrington knew that she had been close to the murdered chief engineer. He raised his eyes back up to the screens showing the flickering light of the white pulsar. It really was beautiful. He thought about how much his wife would have loved to have seen it. Then he thought of Tyrell in the engine room. He had told him to keep his identity secret from the crew lest it cause any more panic.
“Any idea where we are?” Barrington said to Young.
“Now that we have a star fix we should know shortly. The computer is running star chart comparisons now,” he said.
“Captain, I don’t see that we have much of a choice. I’ll fly her real slow and punch up the long range sensors to get a closer look at the planet,” Boyett said.
“Alright Lieutenant, take us closer. Anything smells off, and I mean anything, you back us off and get us the hell away from it. Clear?” he said.
“Crystal clear, sir,” Boyett said tapping some commands into her flight computer.
“Jerome, I need that position,” he said walking back to his chair.
“I know, John, I’m working on it. Tyrell would be of help at this stage,” he said.
“He is working with Tosh on the engines. I need them as a priority right now,” Barrington said. “Charly, I need a power reserve and full ship-wide diagnostic done before we get into orbit.”
“Yes, sir,” she replied.
The ship’s engines roared to life as it set its course for the twin star system. It sliced through the nothingness of space quietly as it began its journey. Behind it, a trail of crystallised engine coolant left a curved path in its wake. The sensors along the engine cowlings had been fused during the attack from the killer mechanical planet. Normally
a signal would have been sent directly to a diagnostics console at the rear of the bridge informing the crew of the malfunction. The console, however, had exploded during the attack. The fuse that could be lit at any moment by the radiation of a star began to lay itself out neatly behind the disc shaped vessel. It had now become a matter of time.
Chase Meridian held Carrie’s hand as Doctor Brubaker inserted a medical probe into Carrie’s lower back. She felt a tingling sensation as the energy of the device began to work its way up her spine. She had come to the medical bay early in the morning in hopes that it would be relatively empty. She did not want the prying eyes of the colonists and crew members gazing at the freak. Her father had wanted her to receive a more thorough physical exam, but she had not wanted to be alone, so along the way she had quietly knocked on Meridian’s door. She was worried about Chase. She didn’t seem to be handling the situation as well as the others and her experience on the planet had left her more shaken than Carrie had originally thought. She had practically raised her since her mother’s death and she was the only one that knew about her abilities, apart from her father, since she was a child. She had protected and guided her through it. She looked up at Meridian’s tired eyes. There were dark circles around them and while she tried to contain her internal distress from the rest of the crew, it was impossible to hide from Carrie. She smiled at her.
“How does it feel to finally be the lab rat?” Meridian said.
“Not bad, actually. They have it easy,” she said.
“Try to relax, Carrie, this won’t take long,” Brubaker said.
“So, Doc, what do you reckon?” said Meridian, “Is she a superhero or what?”
Brubaker focused her attention on the readings from the elongated crystal looking object that was pulsating away in Carrie’s lower back.
“I don’t quite have the vivid imagination that you do, Chase, so my guess is no. There is no doubt some genetic mutation is at play here. I am guessing that you were exposed to some variant of solar radiation either on transit to Mars or on the Martian surface. I should know more once I have conducted these tests. I am curious as to when you first noticed you were… different, Carrie,” she said, pausing and looking at her.
Carrie thought about that for a moment. She had always been different.
“I didn’t always feel different,” she replied, “I have always been able to read the other colonists’ thoughts. The electrical impulses that I channel only began to manifest themselves in the last year or so. I would wake up in the middle of the night to the smell of burning. I thought something was wrong with the electrical systems in my quarters on Mars and had them checked out on many occasions. I knew there was something wrong when I began to find burn holes in my bed sheets. I tried to tell you on many occasions, Doctor, but I did not know how. After Earth’s destruction they seemed to become amplified when I had certain emotional responses, and then on the planet …” she paused looking at the two women who looked at her engrossed.
“Go on, Carrie, don’t be afraid,” Meridian said squeezing her hand.
“On the planet I was able to focus the energy bursts into what you saw in the visual recordings. It is getting stronger. I can feel it,” she said beginning to feel her eyes watering up.
It was the first time she had spoken so openly about it and a wave of emotion began to take hold.
“Okay, just relax, Carrie,” Brubaker said. “I need to take a neural scan, which I need to put you to sleep for. You okay with that?” she said.
Carrie nodded. Brubaker stood up, walked over to a nearby table, and prepared the sleep agent. Carrie looked at Meridian as a tear escaped from her eye.
“Listen to me, Dice, we’re gonna get to the bottom of this and I’ll be right here when you wake up, so just close your eyes,” she said.
Carrie was glad she was here. Brubaker approached the bio bed and placed a cylindrical hypo spray onto Carrie’s arm.
“Sweet dreams,” said Meridian.
Carrie was about to respond when the world fell away into nothingness.
She awoke in a green field on a warm sunlit day. The sky overhead was blue and the light breeze that brushed her face brought a warmth with it that calmed her soul. She looked around the empty field expecting to find the castle that she had built in her mind. The fortress she retreated to when she needed to protect herself from all the thoughts of the colonists. It was nowhere to be seen. She was alone, but for the first time since she could remember she was unafraid. The grass felt soft under her bare feet and stretched for kilometres in all directions. She did not recognise the place her mind had taken her. She closed her eyes and breathed in the warm summer air.
“Hello, Carrie,” came a soft voice from behind her.
She turned slowly recognising the sound. Her mother’s beautiful eyes met hers. She smiled kindly at her. Carrie looked deeply into her eyes and wanted to embrace her, but suddenly found herself unable to move. Jennifer Barrington stood serenely before her daughter and extended her hand. Carrie felt herself able to move her arms and raised one of them up to take her mother’s hand.
“Where are you?” Carrie asked.
“I am always,” Jennifer responded.
“What do you mean?” Carrie asked.
“You look as I had always imagined you would,” Jennifer said.
Carrie’s eyes began to water as tears began to fall uncontrollably down her cheeks.
“Where are you?” she said, “I need you.”
“You must find us,” Jennifer said.
“Who?” Carrie said.
“Carrie, you must go with Tyrell,” Jennifer said.
“What is wrong with me, why am I so different?” Carrie said.
Jennifer gave her daughter a warm smile. “You are of us, Carrie. You must go with Tyrell,” she replied.
Carrie suddenly felt tired.