DEEP THREAT

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A ride between two space colonies winds up angering the dark matter of deep space.

Submitted: January 31, 2016

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Submitted: January 31, 2016

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 DEEP THREAT 

A Short Story

Nicholas Cochran

Adam Stanyan had studied the stars on hundreds of nights while living on The Marble.

His grandfather had introduced him: first, to the sky, then to the planets, followed by our solar system, the Milky Way and, lastly, to our universe; or at least one of them.

Grandfather Butler had been one of the prominent scientists who had joined with Musk, to incarnate O’Neil’s ideas and Heppenheimer’s instructions, for building space colonies around LaGrange points Four and Five.

Adam had followed his heart to the stars twenty years ago.

His father and mother, Julian and Alexis, along with his two younger brothers, Joel and Justin, and his older sister, Lesley made the decision to leave The Marble and begin the lives of colonists on Colony 246.

Their new home was in one of the larger twin-cylinder colonies that housed almost twenty million people in its two portions. Everyone in the family had visited several colonies and had decided on 246 because of the extremely high levels of education and the de minimus crime statistics.

Julian Stanyan had been joined at the hip to his chosen field of Space Engineering. He had worked for thirty years on the construction of more than a hundred Space Colonies.

He began his career helping to construct the first Moon Base where he and over three thousand others built bases and the Mass Drivers that launched material from the moon into giant catchers near the Lagrange Points Four and Five.

Julian also worked on the two giant catchers before he moved on to building the Space Colonies themselves.

It was now ten years since Julian had died. Adam was never completely satisfied with the coroner’s report as to the cause of death.

The entire family had questioned the verdict.

Adam continued to stare through the eight foot by twelve-foot window of his SpaceCab.

The textured inkiness of dark matter transcended all descriptions about the blackness of interstellar space. The limitless obsidian desolation of the beyond, always grabbed at something deep inside Adam, even when he experienced less than a fleeting piece of it; while having a drink, or reading during the thirty-minute rides between the major colonies.

Sometimes he could swear that he hadn’t looked at the void at all, but that in some extraordinarily strange way the void of infinity was deliberately but imperceptibly creeping into him.

His psychiatrist had given him a few volumes to read and digest before their next meeting.

The volumes were works that recorded the experiences of people who spent thousands of hours in space.

Most of their personal histories included an indelible appreciation of the extremely deep emotions they encountered.

The majority were prompted by the intensity of these emotions to conclude that some space-borne disease was the cause of the cruel ravages suffered by their basic instincts.

They expressed their awareness of an alarm; a preternatural scream of danger directed at the presence of some insidious malignancy that was seeping throughout the universe.

This bizarre resistance to the presence of strangers, appeared to be trying to protect infinity from being explored; some infinite inhabitance, that was compelled to defeat Earth’s pioneers with all the visible and invisible mechanisms available to its overarching omnipotence.

Killing the invaders was not the problem; The Might was spending more time finding them and deconstructing their defenses.

Just as The Might wraps Earth in a continual invisible fabric of determination, Earth’s version was simply an outpost –one of billions, throughout all the universes, wherever sentient life struggled to leave the restrictions of their cradle.

 

SpaceCabs worked the miles between the two Points, and the seven hundred colonies already built or to be completed within the next five years—with cost overruns, of course; not many of the devious routes to financial success were absent from the colonies and their constructors.

Sadly, the personal frailties of Earth thrived just as well in zero gravity; corrected of course, for human survival under the approximate gravitational force exerted on Earth.

 

Adam stepped away form the large window onto the vast drear of endless space, and turned down a short corridor to the bar; one last Bud before docking; but when the purpose of his visit forced a path into his consciousness, he decided to have at least two Buds.

This SpaceCab was almost full today; over four hundred passengers on two levels. Not quite half of the passengers, including Adam, lawyer to the stars, were bound for Colony 246.

Naomi had often seen him under the influence of Buds, both on Number 246 as well as on The Marble; he wouldn’t want to disappoint her.

Their two sons remained on The Marble trying to find themselves, despite Adam’s ceaseless reminder to them that life was about creating yourself.

He had showered them with Shavian maxims from their days in rompers, but to no avail.

His daughter Susan, on the other hand, grasped its meaning the first time she heard it, and immediately dove into her sandbox and created a ramshackle sand castle.

She was now twenty-four and to be married within the year; October, he thought, Columbus Day, just as Adam had married their mother Naomi on that signal date.

However, their voyage of exploration as a team had been confounded by shoals; large and seemingly endless shoals that waited for their ship at every turn: child rearing; sabbaticals; solo practices; and most of the list of usual suspects that make up the list of life-choices.

Their once-sturdy vessel of love and compatibility, along with shared objectives and a joint effort to achieve them, broke up on the reefs of time; now showing only flotsam and jetsam of a once cherished dream.

 

 Adam downed his third Bud and moved toward the assembly area for debarkation.

Suddenly a sharp shiver doubled him over and he thought he might faint.

His vagus nerve was acting up again but there was definitely more; scenes of horror sped across his inner vision; overheard remarks about the brutalities committed on certain colonies years before being discovered and dealt with; chilling accounts of mysterious invisible forces that broke even the hardiest of men.

Adam shook his head a few times and managed to relieve some of the pressure by silently burping, a sure method learned from a running doctor on The Marble.

Now the colony was within a few hundred miles of the closing cab and Adam was once more amazed at the speed of these SpaceCabs and their New York style operators; this one Adam knew and trusted completely.

Of course, all the SpaceCabs were on autopilot, but a recent series of malfunctions had prompted the Space Transportation Authority to place pilots on board to monitor all the systems and to control all docking maneuvers manually.

The sight of the colony looming before them at such a terrifying speed visibly shook others around him; they believed unequivocally that there would be a crash.

However, Lenny knew his onions, switched to manual and drifted his cab right to the front door. Adam saw no “Welcome” sign but thought the front portion of the craft blocked it.

Within moments, all passengers on the first floor were massed at the exit side of the cab, waiting for the docking procedure to be completed.

Adam thought the operation was taking far too long.

Unexpectedly, he began to feel that eerie sensation deep within his core, the perception that he registered every time he had stared for hours into the dark matter of the boundless universe. Fear deepened the sensation; then terror took over.

Abruptly, Adam wheeled away from disembarkation area, shoving aside everyone before him, until, after only four or five seconds, he was out of the area and compelled to sprint toward Lenny’s control center; to do what . . . ?

He had no specific idea; just that he had to get to Lenny and have him shut down the passenger exit process. Now he was hammering on Lenny’s door; Lenny switched on the intercom.

“Yeah?”

“Lenny; it’s me, Adam. Stop the exit; for God’s sake stop the exit, please!”

“I can’t Adam; it’s already opening; they’re entering the air lock; why, what’s the matter?”

“I can’t tell you right now Lenny, but it’s life or death; just stop the process, and don’t close our airlock door; Please Lenny; please; reopen your door. I’ll explain,” Adam knew he couldn’t explain; at least not right then, “trust me Lenny,” totally losing it; with tears, through sobs, “for God’s sake trust me Lenny, trust me,” shaking uncontrollably, “oh, please.” Now he crumpled against the door. A moment passed at a glacial pace.

Okay Adam; but this better be goddamned good, you know; really goddamned good.”

Adam heard the clicking of computer keys that executed the override system and allowed Lenny to begin to undo the preliminary docking commands.

Then Adam heard the screams; and Kenny began shouting. Adam twisted to see what was happening at the exit area.

The SpaceCab door was slowly rising and people were ducking under the door as soon as space for their flattened bodies allowed. Adam vomited. Pieces of the travelers were also being squeezed under the door as it sluggishly rose above the blood and body parts. Abruptly the door stopped; then immediately began to lower.

Adam’s eyes clouded up with tears and fear and disgust; and terror.

He wobbled to his feet, stumbled across the cab, and began pulling passengers away from the door and the carnage at its feet.

Only twelve of the three hundred and twenty-two passengers were saved on both levels of the SpaceCab; and three of those died in the hospital on colony 246.

 

At the inquiry, Adam was asked how he knew calamity waited in the airlock of the colony; which turned out to be the wrong colony.

It was Colony 99, where an insurrection of the criminally insane colonists had reached the airlock doors of their colony where they slaughtered virtually all of Lenny’s passengers before the SpaceCab’s airlock door was lowered.

At first, Adam was determined not to tell them about his other bizarre ‘encounters’ with the demons of the dark matter. Wisely, for his own catharsis, his past invisible incidents cracked through his inner security system.

Without warning, he related as best he could, every awareness that he had ever experienced in those specific areas where he felt almost violated by those gut-ripping sensations.

When he finished his testimony, his face was a curtain of sweat; but he felt exorcised; at last.

The court of inquiry was absolutely without sound for several minutes.

Adam  later learned  that more than half of the members of the court, as well as most of the survivors—and even members of the audience—had undergone similar uncontrollable horror at certain times when they had been alone and staring into the ebony void of space.

Lenny retired.

The Board of Inquiry had investigated every second of the voyage from Adam’s departure colony to colony 99 and found nothing.

Spanning almost three decades, the members of subsequent Courts of Inquiry parsed every nanosecond of that deadly voyage.

Not one error in computation—mechanical, digital, or human—was ever discovered.

Colony 99 was exploded after all the inmates were removed to Colony 666.

 

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2018 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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