Author : Ian Hill
“Please, I don’t want to be here. Just- just help.”
The voice was distorted and compressed, only decipherable after being ran through an extensive quality recover system.
“I need- I need to leave. I don’t want this.”
The message went on for about a minute, a minute of this pitiful man pleading for a savior from some obscure corner of the universe. The message itself had been effectively packaged and sent out, transmitted by some sort of long range device that was calibrated to fall in line with most modern equipment.
The first receivers, a contingent of far flung Keitl defense platform operators, decoded the message and listened in discomfort. They glanced back and forth at each other uneasily, wincing every time the reduced man issued forth a piercing wail. Once the eerie distress signal was over they all stood in silence around their small space station’s primary computer, internally deliberating on what to do.
Procedure was clear. Any border defense soldiers were told to remain at their postings no matter what kind of external stimuli they were faced with. However, this message chilled them to the core. It came from a largely empty area and was so genuine and charged with terror. Some of the Keitl wanted to know what was causing this trauma, others merely wanted an excuse to leave their selfsame environment for a brief respite.
Eventually, the group of eight decided to temporarily shift the platform to automated controls and set off toward the message’s point of origin via an emergency pod. They all gathered their sparse equipment that encompassed everything from mandatory side arms to single use white phosphor flares to clear-faced gasmasks.
Soon, the small crew had climbed aboard the cramped pod. The navigation officer input the message’s coordinates and the bullet-shaped chunk of reinforced metal shot out from its magnetic cradle, off into the void beyond. The journey was uncomfortable and jarring, but after only a few hours the impromptu ship ignited its reverse thrusters and automatically docked in one of the asteroid’s seemingly abandoned bays.
The Keitl soldiers crept out of their tiny vessel, firearms gripped tightly in their gloved hands. The asteroid base was decrepit and covered in a layer of frosty dust. Everything was cold, icy vapors issued up from the metal decking with every step forward. The utilitarian architecture was built around what appeared to be a natural cave that tunneled through the lumpy asteroid’s core.
As the crew slowly moved forward through the rusty maze of frozen metal they stuck to the shadows and made sure every room was clear before progressing. The Keitl were effective, naturally militant people that did things right the first time.
Before long they had reached the dead zone. All the lights were destroyed and the lack of life support was painfully apparent. The soldiers lit flares and tossed them forward at equal intervals, covering every dark corner with blinding white light. Making progress became exponentially slower, but they refused to split up.
After a few minutes one of the women of the group spoke up. A device at her side indicated that they were growing closer to the message’s point of origin. Systematically, they searched through all the surrounding rooms until they reached a large round area with a basin-like floor. The smooth decking was an inverted cone with a drain set in the middle of the concave point.
The eight peered around the eerie room as the woman with the beeping device strode around, listening intently to the pulsating chirp. Eventually, she came to stop at a single point.
“This is where it came from.” she said softly, bending down to peer at the iron shackles that were chained to the ground mere feet from her.
“There’s no one here, let’s uh- let’s go.” one of the soldiers said, turning to push open the heavy door that led out into the corridor beyond. It didn’t budge.
Predictably, the eight frantically searched for a way out. They kicked at the door, felt along the walls, but soon realized that they were stuck. Their heated conversation degraded into pleas for help, high pitched shouts that echoed throughout the abandoned asteroid station ominously.
Somewhere in the dark there was a soft clicking noise as another message was sent out into the void.
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
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