Author : N. R. Crowningshield

Vera sat on the cold steel floor. Back hunched and aching. Her legs were wrapped in her arms and she buried her face in her knees. Hiding her eyes and quietly sobbing. She was unsure of how much time had passed. A loud pummel of flesh against steel startled her.

“Alex did you set the distress beacon?” Vera stammered under deep breaths. She was unable to calm herself.

“Yes Vera. I activated the distress beacon just after the phenomenon.” The ship’s computer replied in a monotonous male voice.

“Oh. Alright. Can we reposition at all?” Vera asked in a muffled voice. She kept her face planted on her knees.

“No Vera. Unfortunately John has destroyed the main engine. The damage is beyond my repair. I consumed the reserve Reaction Control fuel to surge the ship in reverse. My intention was to disengage John’s grasp on you. I am unable to perform any bio scans without you seated in the pilot chair. How is your health Vera?”

Keeping her head down, she examined her right wrist. Her scratches seeped blood and soaked the shredded carbon mesh sleeve. A dark purple bruise surrounded her wrist as an ugly bracelet. Gingerly she rotated her hand, unsure if it was broken. The other hand felt around her swollen neck, Vera assumed it was the same color as her wrist. Her throat ached with every labored breath.

“I think I’m alright. I am very shaken.Thank you for saving my life Alex.”

“It was my pleasure Vera. Protocol states that no one is to harm another crew member under any condition.”

“Not much of a crew. Only us two. Did you find out anything on that violet flash?”

“No Vera. My scanners did not read anything out of the ordinary. My visual inspection of John has lead me to believe that the phenomenon has changed his psychology drastically. His cognitive abilities may not even be of John’s anymore.”

Even in the windowless engine room, Vera recalled how the ship’s hull radiated a violet flash of light. She still smelled the acrid scent it left behind. Like overheating circuits. Vera couldn’t guess what John saw in the cockpit. She was glad she didn’t.

“Please close the blinders Alex.”

“Yes Vera.” A black screen slid across the the cockpit windows, hiding the cosmos. “Blinds closed.”

Another strike of a fist against steel.

Vera choked down a terrified scream. Hugging her legs even tighter, she heaved into heavy sobs again. She tasted the salt of her tears as they ran down her cheeks and across her lips. Her nose started to run.

“Do not worry Vera. The cockpit is secure. The cockpit door is reinforced so that no human, no matter their strength, can break it down.”

Alex’s reassurance did little for Vera’s nerves. “Damn the abyss! There is no food in here. No water. No toilet. Can’t we get a hold of anyone?” Mira snapped. Her sniffling gasps of breath broke her sentences. .

“No Vera. I cannot reach anyone on the comms. I read no malfunction in our equipment. I have concluded that there must be some interference coming from Saturn’s rings.” The ship’s artificial intelligence calculated a logical apology. “I’m sorry Vera.”

No way of returning home. No way to communicate with anyone. No way to feed herself. All she could do was wait.

A sharp shriek of nails scraped against the door.

Vera looked up and there was John. He was watching her through the window. Watching her with new violet eyes. He stood motionless. Smiling. And staring. Never blinking.

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