Author : Roger Dale Trexler
We dropped out of warp near the wreckage. Navigator Needham did a fine job and I intended to recommend him for a commendation—if we came back from the assignment.
I walked to the view screen and looked out. Ahead of us, less than a parsec away, I saw the wreckage of the HEINLEIN. Whatever attacked it had destroyed it completely. I tried not to notice the frozen bodies.
“What kind of animals could do this?” asked First Officer Rancin.
I turned. “Scans?” I asked.
Officer Moreland looked at the console in front of him. He punched a few buttons, and then shook his head. “Nothing in the immediate vicinity,” he said. “We’re alone.”
Alone? I thought as I looked out at the devastation. Not likely. I reran the events of the past few months in my brain. We had moved deeper and deeper into uncharted space looking for habitable planets and resources we could mine. A survey shipped had gone missing in the region, and the HEINLEIN was sent out to investigate. I remember their final comm message well. They were under attack by a bizarre ship that seemed to be able to morph shapes. The HEINLEIN’s captain, Jared Landrom, was an old space academy friend. We had talked over subspace the day before the attack, Landrom giddy as a school girl with excitement over the prospect of making first contact with a new race. “It’s history, Dave,” he said excitedly. “Think of it! First contact!”
I told him to be careful. A survey ship was missing, after all.
Landrom scoffed it off and told me I was a pessimist. “The glass is half full, buddy,” he said over subspace. “And the drink is called ‘infamy’.”
It was the last thing he would ever tell me.
A shudder ran through me as I realized one of the frozen bodies floating out there in the void of space was his.
“Sir?” Moreland said.
“I….I’m picking up something.”
Another shudder ran through me. “What is it?”
“A…a probe of some type.” He looked at the view screen. On his console, he spread his fingers over the image and the view screen enhanced the image.
It was a small, tubular object.
“Scan it,” I said.
Moreland did as instructed. “It appears to be a communication device of some type,” he said. “It’s emitting a signal.”
Moreland nodded. “Yes sir. A signal. I’m running it through the translator now.”
I turned back to the view screen. Two ships gone. I had no doubt that the survey ship had suffered the same fate as the HEINLEIN, but for what reason? They had come to this region of space not as warriors, but as explorers. There was no purpose in their deaths.
Then, my thoughts turned to Antaris Prime, a planet we had discovered a light year or so away. An advanced race of creatures had lived there; but, almost overnight, they were wiped out. Their records told of a race of aliens they called the Kyllians who had come to their planet and demanded they leave. They did not, and they had died.
What evil creatures would commit genocide? I wondered.
Once again, I thought about Landrom’s body, dead and frozen, floating through the void of space.
“Sir?” Moreland said.
I jumped, startled. “Yes?”
“I…um….the, uh, translator has translated the message.”
Moreland was visibly shaken. “It’s two words, sir. Just two words, repeated over and over again.”
“And what are those words?” I asked.
Moreland leaned back in his seat.
“Go away,” he said. “It says ‘go away’.”