Author: Rick Tobin

“Who brought that thing on deck when we’re closing in on the ORC?” Captain Telsey snapped at his first officer, Eloy Thompson. They were a generation apart with Thompson’s massive athletic structure a contrast to the wizened, gray-haired Captain.

“Orders from Fleet just came in. We have no choice. She has been given authority for access, sir.”

Thompson accompanied the teenage girl with almond eyes and frizzy black hair. She pulled away from his grasp.

“You won’t want to touch me again, Lieutenant. I know more about you now than your real mother…the bad one you don’t talk about.”

“Didn’t they warn you about them, Thompson? Never contact…and we have secrets. Fool!”

Thompson looked away, blushing at his reprimand as his guest pointed to the viewscreen.

“So that’s an Odd Radio Signal? It seems so…well, nebulous. We must be close to the black hole in this sector now. I can feel the disruption in the Dark Matter. It’s just another form of water, you know, like us.” Elise Montrose trembled as she held her empathic hands outward.

“Your opinion, mutant. I’ve heard your speech against this trip before…how you don’t trust us, our duties, or our black hole-drive engines. You’re a troublemaker…pure insolence.”

Telsey turned his back to her as he pointed to Thompson to take his assigned chair. “Bring it around, Mr. Thompson. We’ll stay out of range until we can study it a bit more. This is as close as anyone’s come since the new engines came online. Mastering a Hadron drive is still an art form.”

“Yes, sir, holding position. Ready the probe.” Thompson pressed the activation panel to send in a long-range detection drone.

“It’s moving, look there.” Elise blurted out her observation as she slipped past the Captain’s security agent to touch the screen.

“Get her out of here, blast it! Use a prod or something without contacting it. I don’t have time for…”

“They’re coming…there are many coming!” Elise cried out, falling to the floor.

“What now?” questioned Telsey. “Having a seizure?”

“No…no! Too close. Mistake. They circle the black holes. They transform them into…into light torches!” Elise was screaming and rolling along the ship’s hull as security guards searched for anything to control her without contact.

“Thompson, you’ve been around her. What’s the idiot doing?” The Captain gave a sharp look at his second.

“No idea. Look…the screen. What the…” Thompson reduced magnification, revealing dozens of previously unknown ORCs arriving from outside sectors, beginning to surround the ship.

“You should not have come,” Telsey screamed, turning to the Captain. “The water is alive. It is conscious plasma. Black holes are cancers that must be treated to balance the order of the universe. The ORCs are like white blood cells. They absorb and transmute. Their healing is a quasar…and we are…” She stopped, mid-sentence, as the ORCs closed in to heal the ship’s engines.