Author : Roger Dale Trexler
The ship skimmed the border between light and darkness as it had for millennia. Mankind found it by accident. In their quest to explore space, they had finally traversed the distance between Earth and Mercury. The ship had been so small that it was never noticed as it circled the planet along the terminator between its light and dark side. But, as the first manned vessel approached the planet, they used Mercury’s shadow to block out the brilliance of the sun. And, since they were now much closer than any telescope could possibly see, their instruments detected the ship in orbit.
Commander Ricci ordered his ship into a parallel orbit with the alien ship. As they pulled alongside, everyone marveled at the strangely beautiful vessel.
“Where do you think it came from?” Jeffreys, the pilot, asked.
“I don’t know,” Commander Ricci said.
“It’s been there a long time,” Cyrus Esch, the navigator, said. “Over two thousand years, from what I can tell.”
They looked at each other.
“We have to board it,” Commander Ricci said.
They talked about it awhile. Esch and Jeffreys tried to protest, but they knew that they had to board the alien ship. It was, after all, their purpose for going out into space—to explore. Jeffreys and Esch had different viewpoints as to why, but they had both become astronauts for precisely the same reason. They wanted to know what was out there. Esch’s Midwest religious upbringing had prompted him to see what God had created. Jeffreys, the atheist amongst them, simply wanted to know why the universe existed.
“We’ll draw straws to see who goes onboard,” Ricci said. He quickly took three pieces of wire and cut them to three different lengths and held them in his closed fist. Jeffreys drew the short wire.
He looked nervously at his comrades.
“We’ll be in constant touch with you,” Ricci said. “You’ll be all right.”
Unfortunately, that did not dissuade his fears.
Thirty minutes later, they docked with the alien ship. The universal docking clamp held firm to what they believed was an access hatch to the ship.
Jeffreys fitted himself into a spacesuit and stood by the airlock. Even in the cool climate controlled suit, he was sweating.
“What do you think is out there?” he asked Esch.
Esch adjusted Jeffreys’ oxygen controls. “I honestly don’t know,” he said. “But, someone or something left that ship here for us to find. There must be a purpose to it.”
“What if the purpose is to destroy us?” Jeffreys asked.
“I can’t believe that God would allow that,” Esch told him. “Besides, as old as that thing is, you’d think it could have destroyed us long ago.”
Ricci walked into the airlock bay. “You ready?”
Jeffreys nodded. “As ready as I’ll ever be.”
Ricci punched the button to the airlock and it opened. Jeffreys reluctantly stepped inside. As the door sealed, Jeffreys stared out at them, afraid.
Then, he turned and opened the airlock. He stepped through and touched the hatch to the alien ship. It glowed where his hand made contact and slid open.
Jeffreys rushed through the airlock. The panic on his face told Esch and Ricci everything they needed to know.
“Destroy it!” Jeffreys screamed as the airlock pressurized. He unclamped his helmet and shouted, “Destroy it!” again.
Esch looked at Ricci. “What happened?” Esch asked through the comm.
“Jesus…he’s …,” Jeffreys said, but he never finished the sentence. For, in the next instant, the alien spaceship exploded and took them along with it.