Author : J R Hampton

T- minus 14.6 minutes to impact.

The automated voice of the starship crackled. Dazzling lights from the control panel snaked intricate patterns across the monitors. As he reached out to touch the buttons, Commander Singh’s hand seemed to vanish into the swirling kaleidoscope – something was wrong.

Awakening from deep-space stasis, the human mind can take up to an hour to combat the effects of sensory deprivation. The commander’s body was numb. He could not form any words from his mouth.

T- minus 12.3 minutes to impact.

“You are now connected to the mainframe,” the fragmented electronic voice continued, “Brainwave control has been activated.”

T- minus 9.8 minutes to impact.

Commander Singh accessed the on-board systems. The ship was heading towards a giant red star. How had the ship gone so far off target? Searching the star maps, the commander’s limping mind was caught in a web of indiscernible plots, numbers and co-ordinates.

“Where are we?”

The ship’s on-board computer had been lauded as the cutting edge of systematic unison when created for the agency. Designed with the function to interconnect the ship’s many systems, the computer could establish new network pathways and perform diagnostics as and when required. It was hailed by the International Space Engineer’s Association as the safest ship in the solar system. However, it had been designed only for short interplanetary trips to the newly established mining colonies.

“Unknown.” it responded.

T- minus 6.2 minutes to impact.

Attempting to plot a new course away from the star, Commander Singh tried to access the navigational controls.

T- minus 4.9 minutes to impact.

A scroll of reports ran through the commander’s mind. The ship had been in a collision; the engines had been destroyed. Many of the ship’s files had become corrupted. The atmospheric statistical records fused with the infrared sensors, the gyroscopic data merged with the telecommunications operating system. Every time Commander Singh tried to access the flight charts, he found himself inundated with temperature control reports or the on-board entertainment files.

T- minus 4.3 minutes to impact.

He could feel the hull of the ship begin to groan, the cracked panels seemed to sting at his temples and the searing heat from the sun frazzled his thoughts. He had to escape… abandon ship.

T- minus 3.5 minutes to impact.

What of the crew?

The commander reached for the keypad, his mind still futilely attempting to navigate his phantom limbs. Connecting to the ship’s on-board cameras, he navigated his way into the dark gantry to the stasis pods. Under fractured flickers of fluorescent light, the withered bodies of his crew hung like dried fruit.

T- minus 2.5 minutes to impact.

He zoomed in on his own pod. Behind the protective dome of the glass shell, tangled wires wrapped themselves in and around the punctured cavities of his skull like climbing ivy – he stared back into his own eyes.

T- minus 1.7 minutes to impact.

“Save us, commander.” The computer pleaded.

T- minus 53 seconds to impact.

“What have you done?” Cried the commander.

T- minus 10 seconds to impact.

“Save us, commander.”