With a primal burst of strength, the engineer finally pried the door to the medbay open. A burst of air pushed him and the rest of the rescue team back a few feet. It was over in an instant and the crew gathered together to peer into the room which appeared strangely darker than space. Not one harboured any fear, but trepidation only seemed to creep in as they entered the foreboding structure.
Pin for Later!
With the help of a torch, Professor Nix found the light switch. Strips of lights burst on revealing a white, clinical room. Steel tables, their instruments floating and spinning around, forced into a spiral by the change in air pressure.
“Nothing out of the ordinary in this one either,” Nix murmured. “Very curious. I don’t see any bodies, or missing vehicles; just an empty return rocket. Perhaps they went for a walk?”
“Kore, retrieve the recordings,” Captain Sol ordered. “Professor, you get the personnel computer working while Cassio and I start work on the door.”
“Don’t close it behind me,” Kore grunted as he stepped back onto the surface of the dead rock
Kore lightly stepped across the surface, hovering at points, trying not to put too much spring in his step. As he went, Sol and Engineer Cassio went to work on fixing the door. It would take only a moment for Cassio’s brilliant mind to find the problem and resolve it, but it would take Sol much longer to figure out what happened to the lunar station.
Once Kore returned and the airlock was fixed, the rescue team exited their exosuits. All grunted and sighed as their muscles were finally given a chance to relax. It took the heating system only a few seconds to shift the cold air and replace it with a comfortable room temperature. For a moment, Nix thought he was back on earth, working in his old lab, but a glance at the window brought him back to reality.
“It seems the crew is still on the moon,” Nix announced. “I will just need to boost the signal and find them. It will take a while, gentleman and lady, so make yourselves comfortable.”
Nix began connecting a host of gizmos that only confused Kore, so it was only a matter of time before his attention drifted to Sol and Cassio. The two gathered around a screen, ready to play the tapes Kore collected from the recording room, so Kore picked a seat at a surgery table and waited.
There was a high-pitched tone for only a second, which caught everyone by surprise, but it was merely the video of one of the lunar crew members positioning the microphone. In silence, Sol and Cassio joined Kore at the table and the three began watching the series of logs.
“Well, it’s taken some time, but I’m finally back on the moon,” the crew member began. “ It’s day two, spent the whole of the first day just unpacking and settling in with the rest of my crew and-”
A female crew member shuffled into the shot, intoxicated, no doubt by the contents of the smuggled beer that the male crew member brought. She leaned in and planted a kiss on the first crew member's cheek. The two laughed as she stumbled out of the shot again.
“-and...it looks like I’m going to have more fun than the last time.”
The log finished with another high pitched tone and the next started up immediately. Far more professional now, the male crew member introduced himself.
“James Nash, engineer, fifth day on the moon,” James started. “Great progress on the repairs, which impressed the brass, it seems. The message finally came through. I was requested to stay on the moon and of course, I accepted. Chance in a lifetime just to reach here and I would like to get the full experience before I leave.”
James went on to explain his mission in engineering terms, Kore, not wanting to sit through two years of engineer logs, skipped to the last entry. There were no arguments from the rest of the rescue team.
“It’s the third day since Louis went missing and Rebecca is frantic,” an older James started. “We’re all a little on edge, that makes it the fourth lunar crew member to go missing. Without the parts they have, we can’t send a message back to earth, which leaves us...stuck. It will be six months before they send anyone and we can’t wait that long. It’s…”
James checked around and leaned in close, giving the rescue team a clear view of his tired eyes and a scruffy beard.
“It won’t be long before the water stops, we can no longer stay here,” James whispered. “Rebecca has got everyone riled up, ready to go out and look for her brother and the others, but there is a perfectly good ship for us to go back to earth in. We need to cut losses...we need to...she just can’t see it.”
There was a sound and James jumped. He looked around, but apparently, it was nothing important. He leaned in close to the camera again, this time he seemed calmer, which only disturbed the rescue team more when he said what he did.
“I don’t care if he's her brother, I don’t care if Leslie was with them, I don’t care anymore,” James rattled off. “What I care about is the weirdness that is happening. Everything just breaks, I fix it, it breaks again and I...I...I...I need to get off this rock. Even if the only way is cutting off Rebecca's head and showing it to the scanner to let me in the rocket.”
James had cut off the log there and the room went silent. Nix had looked up from the personal computer, his jaw hanging open in horror. Sol had a face of stone, Cassio’s was painted with concern, while Kore only shook his head in disappointment.
“Seen that happen too many times,” Kore murmured. “Some people were never meant to be in space, they just can’t handle it.”
“I don’t think this is that, Kore,” Cassio countered. “Somethings tipped him over the edge, go back a log.”
Sol did the honours, loading the log from the day before, but immediately stopped when he heard the familiar beeping of the personnel tracker.
“Got it working? Good work, Nix,” Sol nodded, walking over to the professor.
“I haven’t finished...someone has just come back in range,” Nix replied. “It’s just one strong signal, but I’m getting a faint signal from another…”
“Okay, everyone suit up,” Sol ordered quickly, thinking of what they had just heard.
Everyone made their way to their exosuits, climbing into the mechanized armour and going through the ten-second process of sealing before moving to the airlock. Expecting the doors to slide open as they did before, the rescue team was caught off their guard as the door malfunctioned. The vacuum of space wrenched the doors from their seals, metal twisted and specialized rubber sealing tore.
In seconds, the doors were flung across the lunar surface. The rescue team shifted slightly but were trained enough to hunker down in time. Small objects bounced off of their suits before it all settled. Once more, everything settled in a moment, but there was confusion among the team.
“It was fixed before,” Cassio muttered. “Now it’s worse than before...what the hell?”
“It doesn’t matter, let's go find the source of the signal,” Sol replied before marching off outside the med-bay.
Nix followed Sol and Kore followed Nix but stopped at the door when he realized Cassio hadn’t moved.
“Don’t beat yourself up, lass, Nash said everything was breaking,” Kore told her.
“But that shouldn’t have happened, Kore,” Cassio murmured. “It’s impossible.”
“Eh, don’t let this get to you. Next, you will be babbling like Nash.”
Cassio looked at Kore who only gave her an affirming nod. She returned one of her own and followed him. The openness of the lunar surface greeted them once more, only this time the mostly-flat horizon was broken by two figures.
The rescue team watched the figures approach, finally deciding to go meet the closest one. As they marched, they noticed the closer figure was waving a warning sign. Understanding the gesture, Captain Sol called the others to a stop. The closest figure stopped waving and pointed towards the return rocket that it was heading towards.
"Tap into his comms," Sol ordered Nix.
"Trying…it looks like his system is damaged, it's not happening."
The rescue team hesitated. The second figure grew closer, they could see it was floating above the lunar surface. The feet dangled, limp to the movements it made as it levitated towards them.
"Good Lord," Kore whispered.
"Nix...try that one," Sol ordered.
Nix went to work on connecting their comms to the faint signal. What they heard was garbled by static, but through the static roared the agonised screaming of the dying astronaut. The scream reverberated in the comms for a moment before Sol personally cut the connection.
"Kore, with me, Cassio, Nix, follow the other to the return rocket, make sure he doesn't take off," Sol ordered.
The team moved as one, despite the fear and curiosity. Kore drew his pistol, which normally would bother Sol, but this time a pistol in hand felt right. Sol drew his pistol and both got deadly serious, focusing on the second figure which writhed a little as it hovered towards them. Sol found his spirit failing as he got closer and he was not the only one. Kore, although eager at first, felt the strange, discomforting aura as well.
Twenty off metres away from the strange form, the two soon discovered why the body hovered as it did. Impossible to see against the backdrop of space, but much easier to make out against the white of the moon, a mass of black tendrils writhed like snakes. One tendril had pierced a crew member, carrying him like a puppet, barely alive.
The sight of the alien life-form would have horrified the two rescue team members, but they had trouble thinking anything as they stared at the slow approaching form. Their minds breaking at the sight of the creature, or the creature purposefully slowing them, it was hard to say. Sol stared into the void the tendrils sprung from and he wondered if he would ever see his love’s face again. As the single thought drifted through his mind, the comms crackled as a familiar voice called out to him.
The voice barely registered as Sol fell into oblivion.
Eternity stretched on, time lost all relevance. Sol’s mind went through heaven and hell of absolute solitude, isolated from outside thought. Drifting in the pools of his subconscious, going mad countless times until at last a voice called out to him. Drifting towards it, having spent much of his time speaking to his illusions, he knew when his mind was fooling him.
Memories Sol collected before his descent were revealed in an instant, from the memories he found the voice that matched, the name that went with it and he called out.
“Cassio,” Sol whispered as Cassio yelled for them through the comms, Kore dragging the limp Sol towards the return rocket.
James Nash had convinced the others to help him into the rocket and it was thanks to their collective knowledge that they got through the doors' retinal scanner in a short space of time. As his consciousness returned to him, Sol struggled to his feet, finding his ability to walk coming so naturally after a long time imprisoned in his mind. He ran alongside his friend, Kore, to the return rocket, away from the creature of mirrored darkness.
The two entered the rocket after the rest. In a painstaking minute, the ship’s reactor’s energy surged through the rocket's system. Lights glowed with startling brightness as the ship vibrated. Liftoff, a course set to land on earth months from then. Aboard the ship that was meant to carry twenty, there were only five. Four rescue team members and a survivor who escaped death.
James Nash shook and stuttered his explanations, but was immediately silenced by Kore. Cassio and Nix began to receive a more stable explanation, although that too lacked any real understanding. It was Sol who provided the closest answer to what they saw, but even that he could not say with absolute surety.
“It was beautiful Eternity.”