Author: Timothy Goss

They’ve lost the Dog, it was en route to Vega station.

“What happened?” Councillor Lauder drools while foam bubbles form at the corners of his mouth. His red face turns beetroot in the afternoon light.

The vessel was dragged from the stream into the interstellar medium. Council Rangers were dispatched immediately but were unable to locate a trace. It is unknown if this was a deliberate breach or an untimely accident

“There are no accidents.” Somebody squeaks from the back.

“Any news on the cargo?” Councillor Saul asks. His eyes flit nervously about the room.

The ship and its manifest are missing. Council Rangers received reports of Oort cloud buccaneers in the vicinity but the vessel’s Zanix beacon was none operational.

“Unless she drifts into the local lanes we might never find her.” Captain Cofi adds dishearteningly.

Officially The Black Dog is carrying eight crew, ten passengers, and a hull full of feed and accessories to enhance production of those mining beyond the void.

“Indeed.” Sharattt almost smiles, he knows the dog is really full of Formula 364.

The Council must consult.

Dr. Forester smiles before taking a seat. He is a small man, early fifties with lazy grey hair that hangs from his head like a dead rosebush. He once had buds and thorns but they have withered in time for his golden days. Is it the Council he represents? He wears a coverall bearing their logo – EC1342 – it’s imprinted on everything, including the Doc. I turn off the fire and sit in a dressing gown and kung-fu pants. He says he’s here to measure my progress. But I don’t know where here is, the fleas have abandoned the dog. Out of the portholesz I see nothing, no land, no sky, no space, no thing – nothing. I have never considered what nothing truly represents.

I try to remember what happened? When it happened? Where did it happen, and Why?

Dr. Forester holds my wrist, he is caressing the skin but it’s tender and I wince.

“Is that painful?” he asks and repeats the action. I wince a second time.

“Yes, it hurts.” I want to say, but I have no words for him and nothingness spreads throughout my body. It’s a consequence of space and time, Doc Forester says and nods reassuringly, I, however, am not reassured and don’t respond.

Someone mentions the clean-up crew, but only as a cruel joke. Everybody’s heard the rumours, “F-364 makes us obsolete.” they whine, as there is nothing to clean up – F-364 is the ultimate detergent, wiping away any mess in seconds.

The Council reconvenes at the HUB site in the valley of Mexico, they’ve ingested the Hub-Bud and can see beyond the void and into the space between spaces – between this and that. The Black Dog is their focus, and the holes it has caused in space and time. It’s a mess on an interstellar scale, a smudge in the night sky growing more relevant, like a missing pixel in the vastness of a cinema screen.

The unity of HUB-Buddies is birthed in the gut. Some drink a vile tea, but most ingest by mouth, like cowboys chewing tobacco, they chew and spit out the rough husks, swallowing the hallucinogenic juices. The effect is the same, but the journey is very different for everyone, and Buddies that fall never come back.

F-364 leaks in the system are endemic, the Council knows this and unity is their answer. Nobody knows if it will succeed, our trust is in the unity of the HUB. We hold our breath as the nothingness spreads.