5 09 2009

Manuel keyed his com-link. “Jason. Respond.”

Atlanta’s voice crackled into his headset. “Manuel, is Jason alright? What happened?”

“Uh, I don’t know. He wasn’t here when I came in. Maybe you and Brandon should go back to the ship and I’ll look for Jason.”

Atlanta made a sound of disgust. “Don’t you start. Now is not the time to split up.”

“Roger.” Manuel shut the inner door to the airlock chamber and watched as Atlanta and then Brandon came through one after the other.

“Alright, what are we waiting for?” Atlanta asked as she slung her rifle around to the front. “Let’s find him.”

The trio spun around as they heard the outer hatch opening on the airlock. “Was someone else out there with you?” Manuel’s question was just barely off his lips when a suited figure slid into the airlock.

Their com-links crackled. “The airlock is only big enough for one person. We’ll have to go in one at a time.” It was Jason’s voice. The airlock outer door shut and the sound of air pumps vibrated in the corridor. They held their collective breath as the inner door opened and Jason stepped into the passageway. “How in the world did you all get in here?”

Atlanta brought her rifle up to bear on him and keyed her own com-link. “Who are you? Drop your weapon.” Jason complied and let his own rifle clatter to the deck. They stared at each other, locked in confusion, minds racing.

Brandon meanwhile had been studying the readout on the forearm of his environ-suit. He suddenly removed his helmet and took a deep breath. The action broke the stalemate as each of them turned to apprise him. “What?” he asked innocently. Jason and Manuel both removed their helmets simultaneously. Finally, Atlanta let go of her rifle with one hand and removed her own helmet with the other.

“Explain yourself,” Atlanta said.

“I should demand the same of you,” Jason replied. She just stared at him. He saw that she was serious and decided to explain. “I was out there with the three of you, I came into the airlock first,” he emphasized. “And then when I stepped out here, there you all were.” He folded his arms. “Now. Explain yourselves.”

Manuel made an indistinguishable noise and brought his hand up to hide his mouth. Then he burst out laughing. Atlanta turned to look at him with her jaw slack. “Something strike you as funny?”

He ignored her and addressed Jason instead. “You see, you came in first, then we came in and you weren’t here.” Manuel maintained a wide grin on his face. “Then you came in last.” Jason and Atlanta both looked at him like he had space madness.

Brandon stood off to the side looking bored. “Now that we have that settled, can we get on with it?”

“I’m sorry,” Manuel said, getting composure of himself. “The tension must be getting to me. Think about it, though. We are in a black hole, space-time is all bent out of shape in here. Some crazy things are bound to happen. This is really the opportunity of a lifetime, think about all the things we can learn.”

“Seeing as no information can exit a black hole, I doubt you’ll be able to get published in the Scientific Galactic.”

Manuel let out another hearty laugh. “Now I’m convinced it’s you.”

Jason smiled in spite of himself. “Can you put the rifle down now, my dear?”

She lowered her weapon and accepted an embrace by Jason. Brandon rolled his eyes and said, “Well, we aren’t going learn very much standing around here. Let’s get moving.”

A survey of the passageway revealed it to be relatively nondescript. The walls were smooth with intermittent gussets lining the intersection of the bulkhead and the deck. It looked like something that could have departed the Armstrong Space Dock from Earth. In fact there was nothing very alien about its appearance at all. The corridor ended in a tee about thirty meters ahead of them.

They trooped down the hall and after carefully peering around the corners took the left passage. It looked just as plain as the last one. In fact, even after several more turns they still had failed to find a distinguishing feature much less a door of any kind.

Manuel broke the silence. “Should we have been leaving a trail of bread crumbs?” Jason looked at him with not so much as a grimace. “Never mind, I’m sure the minotaur would have eaten them by now anyway.” Manuel’s reference to the mythical beast that wandered the Cretan Labyrinth did force a smile from Atlanta. The ship did seem laid out like a maze.

Finally they came to a passageway that ended in an arched doorway that opened into a larger space. It appeared to be the ship’s bridge. “Looks like the entire ship has been abandoned,” Jason said.

“How do you explain the course maneuvers we observed?” Manuel said.


“Doubt it, but I suppose it’s possible.” Upon entering the room, they noticed two other passages branching off to either side. Ahead of them at the other end of the space was a darkened screen with three chairs facing it. To the left of the screen sat an elaborate looking computer interface. Manuel made his way to the computer while Jason and Atlanta examined other features of the room. Brandon just stood in the middle of the compartment with his rifle falling forgotten across his back.

“Hey, look at this,” Manuel said. He was moving his hands across the interface. “I think this ship is an Earth ship, check this out.” With that he pressed a button and the main screen lit up.






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