Author: Hillary Lyon

The lights on the console rapidly blinked in sequence. What that sequence was, Jackie couldn’t tell. It was all random nonsense to him. His finger hovered over the reboot button. If he hit restart, he’d have to work up a report, and explain his actions to the captain. But if he didn’t press the button…

Jackie dropped his hand down onto the edge of the console. Then what? Will the circuits go crazy, burn up? Will the ship go dark? Powerless and doomed, will we drift helplessly in the cold black void?

He shook his head, dispelling those pessimistic thoughts. Maybe this damn blinking will stop on its own. Or settle into a rhythmic pattern—something that makes sense.

Jackie took a deep breath. Perhaps the blinking isn’t random, he considered. Maybe it’s a code sent by somebody—or something—attempting contact. Trying to tell us—what?

He stood up and began pacing. Perhaps he should alert the chief communications officer. Jackie glanced at the clock above the console. How long has this been going on? Ten minutes? Fifteen? He began to sweat. He should’ve made a note when he first noticed.

The lights continued their crazy blinking.

He remembered his last annual review. He was told he needed to be more decisive. Don’t be afraid to take action, his interviewer admonished. But this wasn’t a small thing, like reporting a crew member running a numbers game. This could be important. Jackie returned to his seat.

The blinking slowed. It settled into a pattern.

It is a message! Jackie smiled. He stared at the flickering lights, memorizing the repeating pattern. What the message said, though, he couldn’t possibly know. That would be a job for the on-board cryptographer.

“Okay,” he said aloud. “Time to alert the chief.” He placed his hands on the console to raise himself from his chair.

Maybe he’d get a commendation for spotting the pattern! He daydreamed. Maybe he’d get a raise, or at least extra vacation time. He’d finally make that trip to New Las Vegas—see Venusian show girls, eat casino sushi, experience tentacle massages—the works!

Enthralled with his fantasy, Jackie didn’t notice he’d laid his right hand across the reset button. When he stood up, he accidentally mashed that button. The console powered down. The flashing lights on the console slowed until they faded into nothing.

The ship went dark.

The shouting began soon after the black-out. In the still air of the ship, lights flickered—but not the ship’s emergency illumination, which was down.

Instead, lights like fireflies blossomed in the dead air. Sentient and cruel, they multiplied quickly into the thousands.

The lights leaked under doors, filling every room, every nook, every crevice. They zoomed into ears, up noses, into open mouths, lighting up every human interior. Conquering, occupying everyone and everything on board.

From a distance, the dark ship developed an internal glow, which quickly bled to its exterior. The lights soon enveloped the whole craft. Blinding rays streamed from the ship’s core, obliterating any resemblance it had to its original form.

From a distance, a diminutive new star was born. A beacon signaling the path to Jackie’s home world.