“The system’s up and running, sir,” the engineer informed the scientist. “But keep an eye on the output, if it reaches red again, you will damage more than the wires.”
“Do me a favour and go the extra mile for once,” the scientist snapped, his glasses falling off his nose. “We have the funding! Start work on a stronger system immediately. We lack time!”
Pin for Later!
The engineer left the frantic scientist to his madness. Consumed by his work, the scientist had forgotten respect, exchanging it for efficiency and productivity. All that mattered was establishing contact with the travellers across the solar system. Their lone vessel had been out of communication for several weeks, which might not have worried many of the experienced scientists in control, but Professor Bright’s heart was persistently aching with worry.
“Nova 12 to ground control, Nova 12 to ground control…” Lucille Bright repeated for the second hour.
Lucille grew tired of trying to contact Earth and her husband. Pushing herself away from the desk, she looked over at her crew. The captain was staring at Pluto, absorbed by its beauty. The doctor was reading, glad that Lucille had stopped her repetitive muttering. The ship engineer was nowhere in sight, far too concerned with her tinkering in the storage bay.
Lucille’s eyes settled on the captain and she silently admired his resolve. For weeks they had been out of contact with Earth, which has been known to happen, but never for so long. Having completed a routine check of every system on the vessel, the crew concluded the problem was with Earth and all they could do was wait.
Yet, if no signal came through within a month, the captain would give the orders to proceed with the mission, otherwise, they would miss their window.
“Lucy, pick up a book,” the doctor told her. “You need a distraction other than-”
“Did I ask you?” Lucy snapped, sensing the doctor’s next words.
“Dawson! Bright!” the Captain yelled. “Keep your heads screwed on tight. If you want to let off steam, do some pushups, but don’t take it out on each other.”
Without so much as looking at his crew, the Captain had silenced their bickering before it began. Between them, Bright and Dawson to each other, silently apologising to and forgiving each other. Still, Bright found her cheeks growing red and decided to leave the helm and return to her room. Once there, she shook her head and picked up the picture of her husband sitting by her bedside.
“Oh, Daniel...I’m sorry, but I-”
The ship rocked violently, causing Lucille to stumble backwards, tripping herself. As she fell, the contents of her desk shifted, small objects falling and barely hurting her. However, a second tremor ran through the ship, sending her flying into the wall and the desk straight at her.
Lucille Bright’s fluttered open.
As Bright regained consciousness, the pain surged through her. Hissing, she clutched the side of her head, feeling overwhelming nausea and dizziness. Recognising the symptoms of a concussion, Bright remained still beneath the cluster of her things. While she lay there, Lucille recalled what happened before she was knocked out.
A tremor ran through the ship, powerful enough to throw everything across the room. It could not have been caused by the movement of the ship itself, as artificial gravity ensured that no matter which way the ship was moving, everything stayed where it was. With that in mind, the tremor could only have been caused by a force within the ship, a concussive blast of some kind.
Bright could not find the answer beneath her desk.
Bright struggled to push the desk off her, but with growing strength, she managed it. As she climbed to her feet, nausea hit her harder than ever, and she was unable to contain herself, Bright emptied her stomach where she stood. Once she had regained her composure, she felt it slipping away quickly as her mind nearly shut down. Stumbling to the wall, Bright clutched the wall to remain steady.
With great effort, Bright slowly made her way out into the dark ship. There was no sign of her crew and with no lights, finding them would be difficult. Thinking that they might be in a similar situation as she was, Bright called out for the captain, doctor and engineer. There were no replies straight away, which had Lucille thinking the worst, but then the familiar sound of the captain caught her attention.
“Foster?” Bright called hopefully.
“Here, Lucy,” the captain groaned from the corner of the room.
Bright approached the sound of his voice, his shape becoming clear as she got closer. To her dismay, the captain was covered in his blood. Lucy fell at his side, tears already in her eyes. Examining him closer, she could see no wounds, which only served to make her ask more unanswerable questions.
“W-where’s...Dawson!” Bright began calling for the doctor, but there was no reply.
“Find them, Lucy,” the captain began. “Find them and get to the escape pod. I love you, I-”
Unable to take another breath in, the captain choked through his sentence until he shuddered. Life left him and Lucy found herself clinging to him still and broken. It seemed to her that the world was falling apart all around her and she couldn’t understand how. Finding her courage and holding onto it before it slipped away again, Bright stood up.
With powerful energy, Bright began searching the ship for the rest of the crew, broken-hearted yet hopeful that nobody else would be lost. The vessel groaned as metal bent, electrics burnt and lights flickered. Bright found the source of the problem before she found her crew.
Metal curled out from the walls, ruptured by an explosion. Bright pondered it only for a moment, wondering what technical problem could lead to such an explosion so suddenly, but then she heard the scuffle of feet from the next hall. Turning, she saw the stumbling figures of Dawson and Kayla as they dragged each other towards the escape pods.
Bright yelled after them, but they didn’t seem to hear. Confused, she approached them and placed her hand on Kayla’s shoulder. Bright’s touch got their attention and they turned revealing their broken forms. Blood poured from their ears, flecks of metal covered their person and Kayla’s eyes were swollen and shut. Dawson was simply guiding someone worse off than him towards the escape pod.
“Captain?” Dawson wheezed.
Bright shook her head and the three continued to the escape pod.
“Explosion...Kayla found a foreign object in the wall and tried to remove the panelling,” Dawson began explaining, his words slurred. “The first explosion went off, not sure how, but it knocked us back. The second explosion ran through the ship. Everything is disabled.”
Bright nodded but was only half listening. As they climbed into the ship, Kayla’s strength finally gave out and she slipped from Dawson’s shoulder onto the pod floor. Bright and Dawson helped her onto a bed and while Dawson took care of her, Bright activate the escape pod systems. The doors closed and she looked back at the vessel as they flew away in a sudden burst of speed.
The escape pod calculated the trajectory in an instant, positioning itself in such a way with small rocket bursts. Within moments, a timer appeared on screen, detailing the time it would take to reach Earth. Shaken, Dawson and Bright sat in front of the screen, looking at Kayla more than the timer. She was still but breathing.
“She will live,” Dawson whispered so low Bright barely heard. The bleeding eardrums worried her, but Dawson was the doctor and he didn’t seem to be concerned. “I don’t-”
Dawson cut himself off when Professor Bright’s face appeared on the pod screen.
“Lucille, I hope you’re alive and conscious so you can hear me,” Professor Bright began, catching Lucy’s attention.
Lucy would have felt relieved if she weren’t confused to see her husband appear on the screen. It was a pre-recorded message, which only served to add to the confusion.
“You didn’t think I would find out,” Professor Bright said simply, which already shook Lucy to her core. “That was your first mistake. I gave you the benefit of the doubt and pretended that it would pass, that you would stop your childish infatuation with him, but then you forced my hand, that was your second mistake.”
Lucy began to weep, Dawson looked at her with concern, but then he saw the anger in Professor’s Bright’s eyes and slowly began to understand.
“I had him selected for this mission, to break you two apart, to end it, but no, that was not good enough!” Professor Bright shouted. “You had to push and force your way onto the same ship as him and even if it meant being so far away from me, you would still be so close to him. That was your third and final mistake.”
With a final look of fury, Professor Bright disappeared, the timer returned but severely shortened. In a minute, the final bomb exploded. Before it did, a small signal was transmitted to earth.
“Ground control to Nova 12, ground control to-” Professor Bright continued to repeat until a small light on his dashboard lit up. With a devilish smile, he stopped to relish the moment.
“Everything okay, Professor?” one scientist asked behind him. Bright turned to look at him with a face painted in worry. “Hey, they’re going to be okay. If there was a problem they would take the escape pod. You will see her again, you know that.”
“Y-yeah, yes...sorry, do you mind…” Bright choked sadly.
“No problem, pal. Take a break…”
The scientist watched Bright leave before turning to the dashboard. He waited for the light and began the message again.
“Ground Control to Nova 12, Ground Control to Nova 12, do you read?”
Nine months later.
The Nova 12 mission was officially scrapped and the brave astronauts were mourned. Many tears were shed by those close to the crew, family and friends who blamed themselves for showing support for such a dangerous venture. Yet, they would go down as heroes in the eyes of every American.
In every newspaper, there pictures on the front page. Their sacrifice in exploring further than was ever done before was remembered by many, appreciated by all. Yet, with the global admiration in mind, there was one who smiled with pride.
Professor Bright returned home one day, with an evil smile, having murdered four heroes in the pursuit of revenge. For him, there was nothing but joy. He did not attend the funeral of his wife, he celebrated in private. It seemed to him that all was going to be fine until there was a knock at his door.
Opening it, Professor Bright was greeted by the sight of a General and his bodyguards, along with two scientists from the space program. It was not unusual for Bright to receive visits from such important people, but it was always announced. Despite this, Bright welcomed them into his empty home. While he led the general and the scientists to the office, one bodyguard remained at the door.
Few words were exchanged between Bright and the guests, as one scientist opened a laptop and started a video. A short video, which revealed to Bright that the survivors on the escape pod had found the bomb. The blind Kayla was guiding Lucille through the process, while Dawson fixed the camera in place. Dawson spoke to the camera, explaining who was behind it all, in the short time that remained.
Of course, Professor Bright had included Kayla into his plan and ensured that the bomb would explode, but before it did, a video stream was still sent to Earth thanks to Dawson’s quick thinking. Thirty seconds of footage played and was soon cut off by the fire and death, but it was still enough to pin the crime on Bright.
Bright could only laugh. He laughed not from being caught, but from seeing the look of horror on his wife’s face. The sadness, the regret and the suffering. Those last moments meant everything to Bright he felt that happiness as he was led away by the soldiers, throughout his incarceration and even in the moments before his execution.