Far Beneath the Distant Stars

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Chapter V

22nd January 2163

There's been so much death on this voyage, and I never thought that after all I'd witnessed that I would be the one to be claiming the last few lives on this ship... I saw the two remaining crew at the beginning of the morning cycle; they'd armed themselves well and were carrying military-grade pulse rifles. I kept low, using the medbay stretchers for cover while they patrolled the corridors outside of my sealed room. One of them tried the door, but found it blocked from the other side; my defences have worked, for the moment. I caught a glimpse of his eyes while he tried to get inside, and I could see his irises had turned red. The sight made me shudder.

I knew I didn't have long until they'd try to get back inside this room, and it wouldn't take much for them to break through my barricades in the end. They could probably blow a hole through the wall if they wanted, and I’d rather not be there when they did. So, after they had passed, I made my way to the hatch at the other end of the room, keeping low to avoid being spotted. I remove the hatch’s cover, and ducked down inside. The useful thing about a ship like the Endeavour is that these engineering shafts run all over the ship, connecting everywhere on board; good for repairs, great for moving about the ship undetected. My goal was to reach the bridge as quickly as possible. From there, I would be able to send a message back to Earth and take control of this vessel; to eliminate the last of the threat to myself and this ship, and - if I was lucky - to return home. It was ambitious (the Endeavour requires a minimum crew compliment of seven), but I knew it was something I had to do. Even if I couldn’t return home, I would at least be rid of the last of that vile being’s presence. I had to try it.

I crawled along on my hands and knees within the tight confines of the shaft for hours. I never stopped or paused to think, I just followed the shaft for as long as I felt like I was heading in the right direction. It was difficult to tell at times, there are no signposts beneath the corridors of the ship, but was able to follow some of the cabling to different power junctions and re-assess my position. It was tight and claustrophobic in the shaft, and I felt like I could barely draw breath, but still I carried on. Junctions were marked with bright green lights, and monitors flashed with tiny lights every few feet, so at last I wasn’t plunged entirely into darkness; even the dimmest of red flashes was enough to keep me moving forward.

I had just passed Junction 19 when I heard a noise. It was a metallic clanking sound, and the shaft was beginning to shake with each noise. I froze in place, frantically trying to turn around and see what it was. I couldn’t see anything in the darkness, with only small red lights to illuminate the shaft behind me. I could not make out any forms or shapes in the black, but I thought a few of the blinking lights were moving closer. The shaking grew more and more prominent, and only when it was all around me did I realise; it was the remaining crewmen, walking on the floor immediately above me. Their feet trod heavily on the floor above, and I held my breath; they probably could not hear me breathing, but I was fearful they might discover me. I remained there in the shaft, lying motionless and prone, until I was sure they had gone, and I continued on my long crawl.

It must have been two or three hours of crawling my way through the shafts until I eventually reached the bridge. I kept poking my head out through access point and hatches to check on my location, until I emerged on the bridge. It was eerily empty in the central nexus of the Endeavour without her crew manning the consoles. A klaxon was still sounding in the room, and the lights were a dull orange rather than their usual dazzling white. The machines still blinked and beeped merrily despite the missing personnel. As I tentatively emerged from the tight space I had just become accustomed to, I could see that they had not yet thoroughly washed the blood off of the floor as flecks of red could still be seen around the captain’s chair and the helm. I felt far too open and exposed stood there in the surprisingly spacious room, and I carefully made my way towards one of the consoles.

The Endeavour had established an automatic orbit around the moon of Lyrae 438b. It would stay that way for as long as it still had power to correct its course, after which the ship would inevitably start to slowly spiral into a decaying orbit. It would never get to that point, of course; I’d be manoeuvring it out of orbit soon enough, and setting a course for Earth. Even with the Alcubierre drive at maximum, it would take nearly ten years to return to Earth, and I would have to be sure I awoke from cryosleep before entering the solar system, otherwise I may end up missing the planet altogether. I tapped at the console’s screen, but it didn’t respond. Lock-down was still in effect, sealing all terminals until unlocked. I sat at the security console and - using the keycard from the guard positioned at my door - I deactivated the lock-down protocols.

Klaxons stopped blaring, and lighting on the bridge returned to normal. Terminals blinked happily to themselves, and for a brief moment everything felt normal. I breathed a sigh of relief, and for the first time in so many days I realised I was relaxed. I started to scour through the computer banks, trying to find how to set the course for Earth, and how to vent the atmosphere from the rest of the ship to eliminate the final threat… This is why ships like the Endeavour require a minimum complement of seven; no man can control this ship alone and keep it running smoothly. But, given the circumstances, I would have to try. I started to fiddle with the navigation control, disengaged the orbital controls, and began to input the coordinates listed in the data-banks as “Earth.”

I heard the door to the bridge slide open behind me, and I turned around just in time to see the last two crewmen. They raised their pulse rifles, and without a moment’s warning they opened fire. I leapt over the helm terminal, and it beeped erratically as the pulse fire pelted its interface. I ducked down, keeping myself as concealed as possible until the gunfire had ceased. I contemplated surrendering, or attempting to reason with them, but I knew my efforts would be futile; they were one of them now. Human husks with a malicious alien consciousness. I knew there was no other option, and I drew my pistol. Emerging from cover, I fired a couple of ill-aimed shots at my assailants. They ducked to take cover, moving to the sides to avoid my fire, giving me an opportunity to back up and get behind even more cover. There was an explosive crackling noise, and smoke began to issue out of the navigational controls. Another siren began to sound, and warning signs started to flash on every console. Uncontrolled descent. Collision imminent.

I fired several more shots at the two men, hitting other terminals in the process. The bridge was blacked-out, aside from the occasional shot of red light as the warning light scrolled around, and sparks erupted from the consoles. The ship rocked and juddered as it hurtled towards the moon. The air was filled with a cacophony of noise as small explosions popped and crackled from the computers, the klaxon blared on and on, and gunfire rang in my ears. In the chaos and confusion, I’m sure I managed to hit one of them, but I couldn’t confirm as I ducked down to brace for another volley of pulse rifle fire. The pain in my arm was gone, a mix of the meds and the natural adrenaline of the emergency situation and the gunfight meant I was now operating purely on survival instinct; that same instinct which helps make us stronger, faster, more resilient. As far as I was concerned, I was about to die either way, so I stood up and faced my attackers. They raised their rifles to open fire, but before they could pull their triggers, I’d shot them both. Five shots left my pistol, and five shots met their mark, as the two staggered backwards, in shock and blood seeping from their chests. They collapsed to the floor. Dead.

I slumped down against one of the crew stations, throwing my gun down and resigning myself to fate. It took a few minutes for me to compose myself to record this entry, likely to be my last. The surface of the moon has been getting closer and closer, and it’s now just a matter of minutes befor-

14th July 2172

I woke up early this morning. Emilia lay next to me, fast asleep, and I slowly retrieved my arm from beneath her. She’s just as beautiful today as the day I met her, she doesn’t seem to have aged at all. I wanted to treat her to a special breakfast in bed for her birthday, as well as an “I’m home!” present. The Endeavour expedition was a success, after all; Lyrae 438b is a prime world for terraforming, and the company has rewarded us all handsomely for our work, so this calls or celebration!

Christian and Rose helped me prepare the breakfast for their mother… They’ve barely changed since the day I left for Lyrae 438b. To think I was worried I’d miss them growing up! Rose hasn’t even turned eight. I’ve missed my family. They’re just as excited to have me back as I am to be back! They loved being regaled by my tales of the Endeavour, although admittedly, I made up some stuff about aliens and action and adventure to keep them interested! It all seemed so fantastical when I made it up, I didn’t think they’d believe a word of it; but there they were, glued to my every word.

We finished cooking the breakfast - a full English, just like my mother used to make back home in the Cotswolds - and placed the tray on the bed next to Emilia. I told Christian to wake her gently, as she was having nice dreams and we didn’t want to disturb her too much.

She’s not the one who’s dreaming, daddy,” he said, and with that I woke up.

23rd January 2163

I awoke amongst the debris of the bridge of the Endeavour. Consoles were burnt out, charred and broken beyond repair, terminals hanging loosely from their fittings. Cables hung from the ceiling like vines, some still sparking with what vestiges of energy they had left flowing through them. Everything felt weird and floaty, almost dreamlike. I looked around frantically for any sign of Emilia, Christian or Rose, but they weren’t anywhere in sight. The two bodies of the last remaining crew members lay several feet away from me, tangled in a mass of wires and cables, bloodied and burnt and at unusual angles, presumably tossed about like rag-dolls by the impact. I must’ve been knocked unconscious when the Endeavour hit the surface of the moon.

Thankfully, the bridge is not at the fore of the ship, so despite the damage wrought by the crash it was not leaking atmosphere. However, as I staggered to my feet, I discovered the artificial gravity controls must have been damaged, as I started to float rather than stand. I was able to make my way towards the door of the bridge and slip through. I didn’t know what I was going to do, I still don’t. I can not see any hope for the future, not any more. All I could think of was taking the black box data from the Endeavour, and sending it - along with these logs - back to Earth, with a warning. A warning to never come back. And that’s exactly what I am doing.

I wandered the devastated corridors of the Endeavour, some without gravity and others with, all damaged in some way or another. Lights were out, atmosphere was thin, cables were exposed and energy would occasionally burst out of them… A few fires had broken out, but rudimentary fire suppression systems were still working. I was in a burnt out starship some 500 light years away from home, all alone. Or so I thought.

A hollow whistle seemed to blow through the derelict ship, echoing in my mind. I knew the sound, but I didn’t want to think about it. It was gone, it was dead, I sent it out to the void of space, I killed those whom it had possessed! Things flitted through the peripheries of my vision, oily shadows dancing out of the corner of my eye, and whenever I turned to face them they were gone. Phantoms. I could see them there, just outside of my perceptions, just an inch out of reach. Black smokey tentacles wrapped around from the sides of my vision, and I could hear it’s haunting warble again, but it didn’t matter how often I turned around I still couldn’t see the creature. That is when it finally occurred to me.

Forgive me, everyone, for everything I’ve done. I hope that your souls take mercy on mine, for I did not know... The monster is inside of me. Maybe it’s been there since I flushed it out the airlock, maybe it never left the ship, or maybe it never came aboard… Maybe it latched on to my mind in the dark depths of Tartarus, standing before that forbidding obelisk. Maybe all of this death, all of this destruction... Is it my doing? Or was it the creature? I see things now that I know cannot possibly be, and now I can not help but question… An apparition of Christian lead me to the black box, in the core of the Endeavour. I did not know to find it there, so how did my hallucination know so? And if not a hallucination, and not my son, then what? So much has happened, so much horror and sadness… I have so many questions and yet, I fear, I will discover few answers.

All I know for sure is that none of this should be permitted to happen again.

This will be the starship Endeavour’s last communiqué with mission control back on Earth. The final status report from the mission to Lyrae 438b. Nobody is left on board now aside from me. I'm on my own, so many light years away from home on this desolate moon. The rest of the crew are dead, and soon I will be joining them. God save their souls, and mine.

I request that this message, and the entries that follow hereafter, be forwarded to my wife, Emilia, and our children, Christian and Rose. I love you all, and I pray that you can find it in your hearts to forgive me.

I include the rest of my logs from the mission with this, my final entry, in the hope that it will prevent anyone from ever making the same mistakes again. I urge whoever receives this to take note of my experiences, of the fate that befell the Endeavour and all who served aboard her, and to take heed so that the same doesn't happen again. May no-one else be forced to suffer the same fate.

Do not return to Lyrae 438b.

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