As men of science, we always adhered to facts, considered details in the decisions we make and studied to solve problems here on the UMD77. Distance, gravitational pull, the atmospheric pressure- they calculated every single cause down to the decimal point. For the past 30 years, I have proudly served as a counselor on board this ship. Although calculations brought us far, nothing prepared us for that fateful day.
A ship of an unusual size sat between two orbiting planets. Resembling a large, cylindrical cross, the ship was an amalgam of metal tubes and cables with wings that pointed to its respective planet. The ship rotated with the Earth-like planets while dozens of red lights flickered around the hull amidst the darkness. The two worlds cast their shadow on the ship as steam escaped from various exhausts.
Inside, sirens blared as soldiers jogged down a corridor of pipes and cables carrying assault rifles. They wore burgundy long sleeve coveralls with a planet insignia and their steel toe boots clanked as they made their way down the halls.
“C’mon, they’re this way!” The squad leader said.
Suddenly, loud pops in the corridor echoed as bullets ripped one man’s body. Blood ejected from each bullet hole as he collapsed. The rest of the soldiers raised their guns and opened fire. Flashing muzzles lit the hallway as they charged towards the incoming fire.
“For Terra!” the men shouted as bullets shredded several more men and collapsed them to the ground.
After the skirmish, three men, wearing black coveralls, emerged from the far side of the corridor.
“That’s the last of….”
The bullet sank into his head and he dropped to the floor. The remaining men looked and discovered a sole survivor trembling as he held his pistol in agony. Pointing his pistol at his enemy, he groaned with bullet holes in his torso.
The men quickly trained their weapons on the doomed assailant. The wounded man’s body jerked uncontrollably as bullets tear through his flesh and he dropped to the floor in a pool of his own blood.
“Let’s find the Admiral!” one shouted as they dashed down the hallway.
After they ran away, a hand lifted the tile and peeked out from under the square panel floor. The man emerged, replaced the tile and stoop up. He was a six foot , cocoa complected, clean-shaven male with glasses. Wearing a white coverall, he meandered through the halls and stepped over corpses. He approached a metal door with a porthole and used the key card around his neck and slid it through a small terminal on the side . After a few beeps of entering his code in the number pad, a female voice answered on the attending terminal over the intercom.
“Please state your name and rank” the AI ordered.
“Admiral William Darcious, Lead counselor.” the man replied.
“Voice recognition confirmed” the computer answered and the door slid open, “Welcome, Admiral”
“There he is! Get him!” A soldier yelled from the far end of the hall.
Panicked, William pressed a few buttons and squeezed against the corner while bullets zipped past. The door closed and bright sparks from the firearms flickered from the window. Panting and sweating, he took a few moments to calm down when he saw the men banging on the door.
He had often sat with them in the mess hall and discussed the almost magic-like aspects of Anti-gravity theory. They seemed interested but now they were trying to kill him. It was as if the time he spent on the ship was nothing but a dream.
He shook his head in disappointment and moved to the next hallway. He stopped at a box that read “Communications” (in white letters). He removed the cover to reveal a dial box with an intercom on top. He dialed a number and listened for the ringtone.
“Hello?” A familiar female voice answered.
“My God, William! You’re still alive?”
“Barely,” he said, “Things have gone to hell and everyone is trying to take control of the ship.”
“Why? The ship’s supposed to keep the planets from colliding with each other. Who in God’s name would want to wreak havoc on the ship at a time like this?”
“The ‘Big Whigs’ didn’t give me access to the complete file. Whatever is happening, it’s got the crew in an uproar. Did you escape?”
“Yes.” The woman answered, “We should be arriving at the nearby ship orbiting Manna soon.”
“Whatever you do, don’t go back to Manna, you understand?”
“Why? Our kids are on Manna, William!”
“I’ve made some arrangements to have them board the ship. They are waiting for you”
“William, what’s going on? I’m worried!”
““I don’t have time to explain Naomi!” William said, punching the wall, “Please, just keep our kids safe. Something is not right and I need to find out what’s going on.”
“Okay,” Naomi said.
“Kiss the children for me, okay?”
“Sure, come back to me alive.”
When the com beeped off, William sucked in a deep breath before he pulled the entire counsel off its hinges. Sparks flashed as exposed electrical wires popped. He dug into his pocket, pulled out a black rubber glove, fitted it on his left hand and reached into the hole. He removed a black pistol and examined it. He released the magazine and saw the bullets in the chamber. Satisfied, he slid it back in place before cocking a round in the chamber.
With caution, he sprinted with his pistol at the ready and reached a corner. He peered down the hall and observed two guards with assault rifles guarding the elevator. One of them peered in his direction, but he recoiled to avoid detection.
Why are there two Mannans at the service elevator?
William took a second peak and noticed steam pipes over their heads. He leaned out, aimed his pistol and fired a shot. The bullet pinged into a pipe and bored a hissing hole inside. Hissing steam mixed with boiling water spilled on the guards and they danced around in agony. Wailing, they dropped their weapons on the floor for an opening.
William took a cleansing breath and charged from the corner. With his feet pounding the metal, he trained his weapon at the dancing men and narrowed his eyes down the sights. Making sure not to kill them, he unleashed several reverberating shots that pierced through the guards legs.
He only killed when it was necessary because he didn’t want to return to his wife with news of him killing her people.
As he approached the wounded men, he removed his key card around his neck and slid it through the terminal. One of the men glared up at William as he knelt beside.
“What’s going on? Why are all of you fighting on-board this ship?” He said. pointing his weapon at the man’s head.
The man didn’t reply right away as he sucked his teeth to cope with the agonizing pain.
“The…The Commander ordered us to secure the elevator…Something about the Terrans threatening to turn this ship into a weapon”
“Weapon?” William asked, “This ship isn’t designed for combat! The anti-gravity emitter that regulates gravity between our planets is fragile.”
“You’ll…have to ask. We’re just following orders. The Terrans started attacking us and that’s how everything started.”
When the elevator’s yellow and black striped doors hummed open, William stepped in and left Manna’s guards to nurse their wounds.
He didn’t know why Commander Joseph would order such a move on board a civilian ship, but he determined to find out why, even if it meant pointing a pistol at the Supreme Commander’s head.
When the metal gate closed, he pressed a floor button. However, he noticed a blinking red button below the counsel where the panel’s bottom half was ripped out. Curious, he pressed the button and the elevator descended to lower levels.
Many confusing thoughts raced through his head as the elevator hummed.
What’s going on? I’ve served on this ship for the past 30 years, toiling to make sure that the fragile peace between our planets would last. It’s been the purpose of my life for everyone to dwell in peace and understanding. We built this vessel as a symbol of peace between us. Why? What was it all for? I’m going to find out what the hell’s going on and there’d better be a good damn reason why this is happening.
When the elevator stopped, he inhaled.
Like a curtain rising over the stage, a purple light illuminated the elevator. William guarded his eyes with his arms. Peering through his fingers he tries to make sense of what was before him in the vast open room.
His eyes adjusted and he noticed a ball of black energy with purple swirls swimming inside the sphere. Purple sparks popped around the globe as it floated in the center of the room.
William’s eyes widened in shock as he lowered his arm to his side and dropped his pistol on the floor.
“Why is there Dark Matter on this ship?” he whispered.
Dark Matter research had been expressly forbidden by both world governments, not only for its destructive capability but for the nasty side effects such as black holes, unexplained creatures, and ruptures in the very fabric of space. There’s enough here to destroy a planet.
His heart sank into despair as troubling thoughts raced through his mind.
“Oh god!” he groans as he picked up his pistol and rushed back to the elevator. Hoping that the elevator would move faster, he repeatedly tapped the command deck floor button. It seemed like an eternity had passed before the gate closed and the elevator ascended.
As he tapped his feet on the floor, loud groans, clanks and crackles sounded throughout the ship.
What was that?, William wondered. However, he quickly brushed the thought away as concerns what he discovered earlier seemed more urgent. If they have dark matter on board, then that meant one thing…
A beep of the elevator broke his concentration and the elevator doors raised to show another sealed door with a terminal on the side. He took his key card, inserted it in slider and tapped a few buttons on the terminal before the metal door opened. He stepped inside the cool foyer where he heard voices arguing in the distance.
He knew who they were.
He stepped in a large circular room with a console at the center with two tables on the opposite sides of the room . On one side, a stocky black woman stood wearing a black military uniform with dozens of medals. Her composed , calculated demeanor completely contrasted the irate man standing opposite of her. Commander Joseph, a boisterous, older man with a slight hunch, scowled as he berated his female peer. He points his finger and curses , not allowing her to speak until he had his say .
Each leader represented their planets well; with the clever and composed Terrans and rough and tough Mannans.
“This is a violation of interstellar treaty!” the man argued, “You purposely withheld information regarding this ship and failed to inform us about the disaster that’s bound to take place. Your actions created this predicament!”
“Matters concerning Terra are not your concern, Commander, Maybe, if you educated yourself on the nature of the universe instead of war and conquest, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.”
“Heh! Always the first ones to study, but the last to take action. Such is the way of the Terrans,” The man said and folded his hands behind his back, “Don’t forget, we were the ones who supplied most of the material and man power to build the ship you’re looking down at us from.”
“Well, what else are you good for?”
“How dare you insult us, COWARD!” The man said, slamming his fist on his table.
Arguments were normal, but this one was intense. Often times, William wondered why he bothered to put these two in the same room. Maybe because both of them looked out for their own planet’s interest. William was different. He longed for peace. Past wars devastated his family and robbed him of everything. He even married a Mannanan woman. It was why he was selected as counselor.
“HEY!” William shouted and gained their attention.
“Counselor.” Commander Joseph saluted.
“Counselor.” Commander Foster saluted as well.
Glowering at them, William sauntered up to his table between the two and held his pistol at his side.
“I served on this ship for thirty years trying to maintain peace between our worlds. Getting you two to cooperate wasn’t easy, and I went to bed proud of the progress we made. But today, I wake up to gunfire and mayhem. I had to shoot two men I eat with in the mess hall to get here.”He raised his weapon and pointed it at each of them. “So, someone better tell me what the hell is going on or I’ll start shooting.”
“Humph! Ya wanna know what’s going on? Ask her. They are the ones who brought that dark matter on board”
William pointed his pistol at the woman.
“Commander Foster? Mind telling me why you’ve brought that godforsaken thing on board this ship?”
Unfazed by the threat, she just stared ahead and explained.“We ended the war because we found out that our planets were on course for a collision,” Foster began, “Therefore, a truce was called and work began to develop a means to halt our planets from orbiting too close.”
“Yeah, and that’s how we built this ship,” William said, “An anti-gravity generator created to keep the planets apart.”
“That was a lie.” Foster answered.
“What?” he asked. His eyes widened in horror lowering his weapon.
“Although theoretically possible, the anti-gravity emitter only slows the collision. In retrospect, the ship was just a ruse to stave off the war until we can come up with a viable solution to save our planets. After trials and years of secret scientific experiments, we concluded that the death of one planet would save the other. So we created the dark matter bomb to eviscerate one planet while keeping the other alive.”
“And let me guess,” Joseph said glaring at Foster, “Your people decided that our planet needed to go.”
“Your infantile wars have decimated your ecosystems and pollution runs rampant throughout your atmosphere. Anyone relocating to your planet would die of disease in a few life cycles.”
“That’s beside the point dammit!” Joseph barked and slammed his hands on the table, “Such crucial information is wrong to keep secret from us. We could’ve prepared by building ships. This would give us time to escape.”
“Escape?” she scoffed, “Where exactly? The nearest habitable star system is a million years away. How could we be sure you wouldn’t attack and force us off our planet?”
“Do you think I wanted this?!” The woman shouted,”Knowing that one day, billions of people were going to die, I spent my life in sheer misery!”
“If you’re too scared, give me the access code.”
“I’m no fool, Joseph! We know that you knew about the device and tried to steal it for yourselves when the opportunity presented itself. If you were in our shoes, you would’ve done the same thing.”
By now, tears have welled up in William’s eyes and they cascaded down his cheeks.
“All the research in anti-gravity systems was nothing but a lie?” He said indignantly.
“Yes,” the woman replied coldly.
“Tell me, why I shouldn’t shoot you where you stand, Foster?” William said as he pointed his gun to her forehead,
“Do you have the courage to kill your sister?” she said with a haughty glare.
William relented and lowered his weapon.
Life separated him and his sister at birth by war and only met when they sent her as a representative of the Terra planet. By then, she had her own experiences and traumas. Growing up without a family made her hard, but, she managed to carve out the life she wanted. However, because of that, his older sister treated him like a stranger.
“Hell, if you won’t shoot her, then I will!” Joseph shouted as he yanked his pistol from his jacket and aimed it at Foster.
William reacted and fired his pistol. A loud pop resonated through the room.
Joseph dropped to the table as Blood pooled beneath him and padded on the floor.
Tears streamed down the admiral’s face as he watched Joseph’s life leave his eyes. Dejected, he wiped away the tears and sat down on his chair with his legs parted.
The woman’s high heels clapped as she strode around her table.
“You did a good thing, William,” his sister said as she pulled out her key card and inserted it on a console in the middle of the room.
Groans, cranks and cracks echoed through the ship.
“It’s happening.” Foster said as she flipped various switches and pushed buttons on the terminal.
“This ship is being torn apart by the two planet’s gravity. We don’t have much time,” she said while she pressed buttons and pulled levers.
A port, with a glowing purple hue, spiraled open on the right-wing of the ship and showed a cannon aimed at commander’s home world.
“Are you really going to destroy their planet?” William asked.
“The Mannans already have fleets out in space. It’s not like they’re going extinct.”
Lights flickered and a green hologram of Manna shot up from the console at the center.
William quietly watched as she made the final preparations.
She lifted the glass cover housing a large red button and held her palm over it.
William raised his pistol, and fired.
Her body arched the wrong way as the bullet sank into her back and exited her chest. In a grand display of blood and shock,
Foster fell to her knees, turned around and cast a wounded glare at William.
Wh…why? Foster said as blood pooled beneath her.
“I’m sorry, sister” he replied and dropped his pistol.
“I’m tired…tired of all this. Years wasted, lives lost, and all hope shattered.”
“Using dark matter at this point will not just destroy their planet, but ours as well. Even if you managed to destroy just their planet, the Mannans will blame us for the loss of their home and war will start again.
Foster held her wound in silence as dark crimson flowed between her fingers.
William approached the console, yanked the key card out and the flashing lights on the screen faded.
“We spent all of our lives deciding what course we should take. We take great care and consideration for facts and scientific study to guide us. But in reality, we barely know ourselves, let alone which path we should take. All the decisions we made and we’re no closer to a solution than before.”
William closed the glass box back over the red button.
“We had our chance and we blew it.”
He flipped a switch and shutters opened all around the room to unveil two planets towering above him. The sun illuminated the planets’ faces as they bulged in tidal combat. Like grass, multiple vortexes sprouted from the atmospheres and connected to the other as the planets feasted on each other.
They spiraled around and sped up as they got closer.
Spider-like cracks split the windows as parts of the ship ripped apart by the colliding giants.
“It’s time we return to form,” he said gazing up at near death, “The way it’s supposed to be. The way it’s always been.”
“This time, Fate shall decide for us.”