He looked out through the observation bay. The shuttle was currently being automatically
hauled in hangar 5. As the huge station was drawing nearer he let go a sigh, when his communication
system beeped the characteristic sound of an incoming message. With a mechanical gesture, he
acknowledged and opened the file. He had been doing this for years. Such actions were mentally
carved in his conscience, and his role as navigation officer condemned him to pursue his efforts for
years to come. He felt somewhat trapped. Years ago, in his youth, space had been the thrilling
icon of adventure and discovery. It was a symbol, and his own private utopia.
Now it all seemed so far away…
“Ghandrii CommunicationsFFg012 1036 08.25.2194
Destined to be received by:
Adolf G. Strauss, Navigation officer, quarter department AG-67,
Sir, we have received your transfer request and analysis is complete. The following
is a verdict. May we remind you the lack of candidates to your current job.
Should you go, finding a replacement would be one of our major objectives of
the next four years, at the least. It is to great an honor to work with you for us
to consider an eventual parting. Case closed.
Gavin U Fergusson.
CAS.qnetwork //CyberAcme Systems, Inc. <532.112.52648.16.920>”
He smiled. There was one officer who had a sense of humor. The message was obviously not for him.
Had someone hacked CyberAcme once again? Or was it just an open letter, destined to warn any
crewmember in case poor Adolf was not the only one?
And he wasn’t.
When would anyone get a chance of getting out of there?
The gigantic structure of the station was now too big to fit wholly on the screen. Once this had been
impressive. Soon, he had gotten used to it all. His systems beeped the error signal. A warning signal
came up on the flickering screen, asking for a communication channel to be opened. This made him
raise an eyebrow. Unusual. He had already announced their arrival to the station, following the routine
standards. The screen read “Force channel opening to prior conversation 6bf7 in 5 seconds” then it
started a countdown. He manually set the channel to “open”. Prior conversations were invariably
originating superior officers, and it was rarely beneficial to be forced into one. He chose not to upset
his correspondent. A small image of a helmet came up. It was connected to a body. Its hand waved.
“-Hello Henry! That scared you, didn’t it?
-Rache! Scared me? What on earth could have scared me? I’m bored to death on this old rusty piece
of junk! Who else could bypass enough systems to get a prior message to an old shuttle pilot upon his
docking in a spaceport? Not that I have that much to do, mind you, technology being at its state-of-art
level, its all automatic, nowadays! So what are you doing in those outfits, and where are you?
-Actually, I didn’t hack anything. Security protocols indicate prior messages for situations such as these:
I don’t suppose you know I have a new job, do you? Well, I work as a docking technician on GPR-II,
and if I’m not mistaken, that is precisely where you are heading. I know technology is fine, nowadays,
but I must tell you that if you don’t correct your trajectory right now, you are going to run straight into
us, and I don’t guarantee you’ll be able to bring any mineral back to HQ…
-What? Ok, no panic, I’ll warn the pilot.”
It was indeed quite unusual. At last a thrill. Some action.
Henry’s hands flied over the console as he pressed the keys. After an instant, he was confronted with
an error log, denying him the access to a conversation with the pilot. He looked concerned. He tried a
prior channel to the bridge, two stories above. He had moved his own office to an unusual place six
months ago: an escape pod. To the other crewmembers, he had explained he was unsociable. In fact,
he had chosen this spot in prevention of an eventual disaster. Working for Ghandrii, a national mining
corporation from the Icarus Independent Government, around the asteroid belt near the Thermopylae
territory involved a certain amount of danger. Anything might happen. Currently, he was trying to get
the image to work properly, since no sound answered his summons, and the all he could see was a blur.
He made the camera rotate, to no effect. This was most unusual. He then tried any other camera on
board, but although they worked properly, the ship seemed empty. He felt his heart beat a trifle quicker.
What was going on? He switched back to his communication with Rachel, and said “Hey Rache, I have
a problem here, the crew seems to have vanished. You better get outta there, cos I can’t run this thing
by myself. Collision course.” Then shut it down, and stood up, heading for the door. An alarm was set
off. Inside his small cabin, everything went red. The door would not open. This was downright stupid.
There he stood, nothing to be done. He looked back at his console. On the screen stood in bright red
letters: “Abandon Ship!” He then heard a deep rumbling noise, which shook the ship. In an instant, he
figured out what was happening. The Abandon Ship message was prior to a massive pod launch, and
since his door was stuck, he would fly. But the deep sound was that of the primary engines started.
The Shuttle would head full-speed for GPR-II. When the typical sound of depressurization was heard
he reached for his seat, but too late. He fell unconscious under the shock.
The corpse shuddered. It was alive. The faint echo of a howling wind was humming in the distance.
Light was fading; a shaded brown gave the monochrome surroundings a strange, almost sad look.
The body moved its arms as to stand up on its feet, but, seemingly too tired by the effort, abandoned
the attempt and let itself lie with a sigh. It was in the middle of a small room. The dilapidated walls gave
off dull reflections of the outside world; evidence of which came pouring through the huge gap of a
perforated door casing. One could see the spinning clouds afar, and below, so fast, as time was taking
another meaning. The man opened his eyes. He could see all this, but his mind was unaware of it. He was
still lost in slumber, dreaming of another world. He turned his head toward the light. With redoubled efforts,
he got on his fours, then stood up, resting on a wall. He put his hand to his eyes to avoid being blinded by
the light. Strange mutterings were heard, but whether they came from himself or not, he could not tell…
He took a step forward, toward the outside. The room lead to a small corridor, or what had been, but the
absence of ceiling made it look more like a terrace. The air was very dry. He stood upright, and drew a deep
breath. The view was startling. He appeared to be on the summit of a great skyscraper, similar to others that
stood up against the horizon, at a distance undeterminable. They all seemed in ruins. Their sheer immensity
made him feel insignificant. But the emptiness around him soon overcame the passing feeling, he was alone.
And lost. Then there were the murmurs. Or were there? He saw afar, the spinning clouds of dust and, he
guessed, ashes. His throat was dry. No water. No sun. It was all brown; clouds of dust high in the sky,
tiles on the floor and the walls, the remnants of the wood, the ground so deep below, and all so brown.
He went closer to the edge. There was a stairway, leading downwards, longing an external wall, and a
door, the darkness of the floors beneath him. He needed to survive, he needed to move, and he felt the ache
of thirst. As he gripped the hand rail and attempted the descent, he felt it give in. The stairs, the wall, the bricks
and the tiles. He was too heavy. They all broke in countless pieces. HE started to think. He sought of life,
of its innocence, and why it was always in desperation one forsook the darker ways, and fell, for he was falling
and, casually, why he was entertaining himself with such interrogations… The stairway crumbled beneath his
weight, when he realized he was over an edge. Then he thought how long it would be before he hit the ground.
It was over a dozen kilometers away. He was falling, he was diving, into the void, into the dust, into the ashes.
“Pfhor wakes up. He is conscious, a loyal servant of the empire. He lives to fight, to serve or die.
The makers are blessed; the war-gods prevail. We seek we crush we exist. Pfhor has a name.
It is F’kaer’ha. Pfhor has a role. To guard the sanctuary. The wakening is done.
F’kaer’ha must take his guard time.
He is rested, and ready.”
The three-eyed creatures known throughout the universe as “Pfhor” respect a ritual awakening, every time they
come out of their slumber. The lower classes of soldiers, of whom F’kaer’ha is a representative, live by the military
code imposed upon them by their superiors. They rarely talk, other than what is sufficient to the execution of their
orders. They have an extremely developed education, concerning everything there is to know about the military, but
are barely informed of any other activities of life, indeed don’t seem to have any. They are stout, emotionless warriors,
who show no weakness, since who does is immediately replaced. When the pfhor die of age, they are still as fit as in the
prime of their youth. Sleep is a necessity to their existence, but they easily manage it whilst standing. This allows them to
do so most everywhere, although they more often use special chambers, with a more humid atmosphere. This particular
pfhor was stepping out of his chamber, and heading for an outer wall of the Djis’pafh sanctuary.
“F’kaer’ha will guard. Searches his memory. What was before sleep. Had been permitted to rest
by officer Gthont. Sees a tall hovering dark-purple clad being, and identifies it as Jn’thissa, the Sph’t
compiler appointed to the surveillance of automatic security devices. Sph’t are strange. Extremely
developed beings. Closely interwoven organic and electronic elements consist a body of a strange
aspect. So technologically in advance had they been, they had been defeated. F’kaer’ha is proud
to be of the slavers. He feels strange. Frightens at himself. He remembers what has happened during
his sleep. The makers, the fathers of Sph’t and Pfhor, the gods, they spoke. They told him something.
Discovers he can dream. Dream is emotion. He is not fit to guard. He must be moved.”
The Pfhor was standing upright on a ridge carved in a cliff, to the northern end of the sanctuary. It consisted of a network
of caves and tunnels, a very ancient city, older than the pfhor themselves, wrought in ancient times by beings the pfhor
thought were their gods. They were older than the races of the galaxy. He should have been heading south, to attend his
guardroom. But as he stood motionless, he was torn with emotions. Anger, fear, hate, and desperation were all shooting
through his brain in a frightful mess. Why should the gods punish him? Why did he feel weak? Was there a meaning? He
suddenly felt lost. A drowning individual acquiring an identity in a sea of unconsciousness. He felt different. And he began
to think. To his left was a towering wall, to his right a deep chasm, not unlike his dream.
What if he fell. What if he jumped?
“Meets officer Gthont. Hears what Gthont says, that he looks startled, surprised. What is he doing here
(what indeed?), blocking the way? Hears he has to move, and reluctantly gives in, and continues his way,
leaving the depths of his improbable suicide. F’kaer’ha shall not fall. Gthont speaks again. Pfhor
are needed. Needed for battle. Secrecy must prevail. F’kaer’ha will be a warrior, he shall inform none.
But he is not, F’kaer’ha is a dreamer!”
Henry awoke all of a sudden. He felt shocked. His head hurt. He couldn’t bother try to find an answer to the questions that
ran through his head, as he lay in dizziness and watched the strange motion of the objects around him. A flickering screen,
a signal written in bright red letters, a chair, a beam of light coming through a round window, the walls, he was lying on one,
were dark, the rest moved too fast for him to consider. A chaotic motion, he figured, and remembered one of his university
courses, not clearly knowing where exactly in his timeline it was supposed to fit. His memory seemed fragmented. He felt
lost, confronted with a whirling, incommensurable quantity of information. His own conscience was recoiling and wrapping
itself around its last certainty: its own existence. He was losing himself, decaying.
Slowly, the escape pod was drifting away. It moved unnoticed among the debris. All around it, the remnants of what had
probably recently been a mining station were floating, spinning. No sound in space. But then there seemed to be a flash.
A hole appeared in the pod’s hull. Air poured out, and it started to turn, slowly. Another flash, another hole. And again, and
again. It was being shot at. All of a sudden, it tore itself to shreds. Still no sound. Scraps of metal joined the debris in their
soundless ballet, among the stars.
Every standard transport shuttle has a minimum of four escape pods. Every one of them emits a signal, as to warn any passing
by craft of their location. Henry’s specific pod was also equipped with a system destined to warn every pod of the presence
of the other pods originated from the same craft. On its detectors, one of them disappeared. Danger was awakening him
in his dreams, the lost city where he should fall. But he cannot fall. He shall not fall. He would wake up and stand.
He would survive.
In the falling oblivion, the conscience erases itself.
It floats, like a wooden ball in a salted sea.
Drifting into the dreams, where lies our truth, we fly.