In which a couple of things that didn't make it into the final draft make a return, including: a monologue from Alyx, a lost transmission, and a description of an alien species that may or may not show up in the series.
17:32 pm 6/06/3119
[Last audio entry of Manned Deep Space Exploration Vessel Vindicator. Location: Outskirts of colonized space]
Calver: Sir, something’s not right.
Captain Phin: We’re about to start, Calver. Not the best time.
Calver: There’s an unusual spike in—
Capt. Phin: Is it a major concern?
PVT Calver: I— [clicking keyboard]—I don’t know.
Capt. Phin claps his hands: Then it’s not an issue. Get Mathers over here.
[There is a brief pause, followed by the sound of equipment being dragged and set up across gravel and asteroid rock. The soft hum of a machine comes to life.]
Mathers: Just checked our anchor points, sir. Core is stabilized on each quadrant of the asteroid. This rock should hold together when we fire it up.
Calver: Which we shouldn’t do…
Mathers: Is there a problem, Calver?
Capt Phin: Calver thinks what we’re doing is unsafe. He seems to believe that creating the biggest advancement in the history of the human race since discovering fire should come without risk, despite our orders.
Calver: Unknown power signature growing stronger—
Capt Phin: Fire it up, PVT Mathers
An uncertain pause.
Mathers: Maybe we should listen, sir.
Capt Phin: Mathers, you will fire up the portal device or I will have you both put in confinement back on the ship until we return to Earth Alliance headquarters. I will not fail to complete orders because of a few hiccups. Is that clear?
Mathers: …Clear, sir.
[A switch clicks, the sound of something monumental, a world shifting, begins. The machine’s hum grows in volume.]
Calver: We need to get farther back, sir!
Capt Phin: Pack it up, boys!
[The sound elevates in pitch. There is a groan of rock shifting followed by the sounding of something, not unlike fabric, tearing].
Mathers: Asteroid stable, but it won’t hold much longer, sir!
Capt Phin: A little longer!
Calver: The energy spike—!
Capt Phin: That’s enough! Cut it off!
[Hands thump and fumble around the shaking machine before finding the off switch. The machine kicks off, and silence ensues; the kind of silence following something that has gone very, very wrong.]
[Heavy breathing. Helmets shifting as someone looks around].
Calver: Sir, I think there’s something…there, on the ground, in the shadows. Something’s there. I think it’s…a body, sir.
[Feet crunch towards it. There’s a dull thud as if he’s kicked something]
Capt Phin: What the—
[The sharp retort of a pistol. The audio recording equipment mutes briefly as to not overload the microphone. When it returns there is the sound of a body, fully equipped in its space suit, crumpling to the ground, followed by screaming.]
Mathers: You—what are you—?
[Another shot. A voice close to the microphone breathing hard.]
Calver: We never—We never should have—I love you, Jen, honey. I love you so much—
[Footsteps approaching the recording equipment. Multiple sets of footsteps.]
Calver: You’re—why’d you shoot him? You’re with—
[Here the microphone mutes again to prevent the sound of screaming from overloading it. Then only silence.]
[Unknown life form kicks over a heavy object. There is the clack of an armored body flopping to the ground.]
Unknown voice signature: Destroy the machine. Find them.
[Last relay sent. End transmission and final message received before destruction of Manned Deep Space Exploration Vessel Vindicator.]
I guess I should have explained about the aliens.
Back in 2800 or so, Earth was busting at the seams, as it always did in those sci-fi books we never listened to. Population became a huge problem. Space, water, air, blah blah blah, the usual deal, was scarce. So we turned to the stars. The next space race began, but this time, instead of the crummy moon, the goal was to get to the farthest reaches of our galaxy and expand. And we did. Boy, we did.
That’s when we found the aliens.
San Ra, Dregs, Rathlans, Negs, Calorians.
Soon, we were backpedaling to Earth almost as fast as we had gone forward. Focus shifted, as it often did in intense times, to bolstering our military. Because nothing said we were a sensible, peaceful race like bigger guns.
During this militarization, the countries of Earth combined into the militaristic conglomerate known as the Earth Alliance. Because, wouldn’t you know it, once we humans realized there was more out there than our pathetic squabblings on one tiny planet in the middle of an infinite sea of planets, each with their own life and cultures and ideas and hopes, well, we started feeling downright chummy with each other. Our problems didn’t seem so important when we were the new kids on the galaxy’s block.
Nothing like the fear of total annihilation to make us hold hands and sing Kumbaya.
Sure, Earth still had its little spats planet side now and then. Drugs were still an issue, but some of that had migrated to space along with the space pirates, gangs, and quite a few of Earth’s population. Our problems were still the same, but they were diluted by the stars now.
The EA, unfortunately, remained. When everyone got scared, that was when they took their chance to grow stronger, reassuring the panicked people that, under their guidance, we would all be safer. Now, there’s the military…and everyone else.
When they were not suppressing housing and food riots, the EA was touting on about supporting their cause. And they didn’t want any dissent. I wouldn’t say their rule in the U.S. was as bad as, maybe, Australia is now, but we were getting there. People went between their nine-to-fives, striving for normalcy, while an undercurrent of crime ran rampant. There was no point in asking police for help because they’re all corrupt.
Speaking of police…
That alone was almost enough to bring the whole thing down. It might still be standing, but that didn’t mean it was stable. It was a lot more than most had, despite the crumbling brick and holes in the roof. Again I wondered why evil cop wanted our house when I’d heard the EA compensated their grunts with clean, spacious living in the inner city.
Then my mom answered the door and evil cop’s face changed to an expression of lusting and I knew he didn’t want the house. He wanted her.
I was so willing to die before letting that happen.
Confusion flickered across my mom’s face. “Alyx?” Her eyes went between me and evil cop. She regained her composure. Mom was good like that. No matter how bad things got she never let it show.
Behind her I could see boxes of old belongings pulled down from our attic. She must have been in the middle of going through what few belongings we had left to try to sell. We needed the money. Hence, why I had been stealing food.
Evil cop stepped into the doorway. My mom backed up but her body language made it clear he wasn’t welcome inside. Despite her small stature and beautiful chocolate brown hair, she was a force to be reckoned with, as my backside could claim when I had been younger.
“What do you want?” she asked.
Evil cop yanked me forward. “Don’t you see your son here?”
“Yeah, I see him. Why’d you bring him here instead of to the courthouse?”
“He’ll go there soon enough. Unless… Unless…” He pretended to think. It was probably the closest he’d ever come to the real thing. “You could do something for me. A small favor. Just a little one.”
“Don't do anything he says,” I said, struggling from evil cop’s grip, but the EA policemen grabbed my handcuffs and pulled me back. My mom barely glanced at me. She looked calm, but now that I was older, now that I knew what it took to hide secrets from the ones I loved, I knew the signs of hidden fear well. And she was very afraid.
“Quiet, Alyx. You’re already in enough trouble.”
“But he doesn’t have to be,” evil cop said. “Alyx here assaulted an EA officer and resisted arrest. That’s serious stuff. Probably land him on Novaris mining rocks for a while. A long while.”
I knew this already. My mom’s left eye twitched, her only outward appearance of the struggle going on inside her. The sound of a front door closing came from next door. Our neighbor, Wilson, stood on his brown front lawn, arms crossed, watching the scene unfold.
“Say you give up this home to me, and I'll drop all charges and your kid’s free. I mean, it’s practically falling apart. Probably dangerous as it is. I could fix it up. And maybe,” evil cop drew closer to my mom and flashed a grimy smile. “Maybe I’ll let you live here. What do you say?”
I pulled against the EA policeman holding me. “Mom—”
“And if I do that, you’ll stop bothering us?”
I froze. She was really thinking about it. She would throw herself and the rest of my crew into the street to see me free. And it’d be all my fault. That’s when I knew, no matter how bad it was on Novaris, it would be better than leaving my family homeless and starving.
“What’s going on here?”
Wilson was on our yard now. An EA officer waved a shock stick threateningly towards him.
“Police business. Back to your home.”
“Why’s that kid handcuffed? He should be at the courthouse.”
“I said back to your home!”
“You’ll drop all the charges?” My mom repeated.
“All of them. I just want this pretty piece of real estate. Not too high a price for your, ah, dear son back.”
I turned to Wilson. All three hundred pounds of him looked pissed.
“You’ll look after my mom, Wilson?” I asked.
He met my eyes and realized what I was about to do. “Yeah, kid. You watch yourself.”
I nodded, then turned and high-kicked evil cop in the crotch. Then I ran like the devil was after me. Which wasn’t too far off.
I made it fifty yards before the EA officers tackled me again. Behind me, evil cop was rolling on the ground, screaming in pain. My mom had shut the door in his face. I hoped she wouldn’t cry too hard. When she got sad she stopped eating, and she wouldn’t last long like that. Wilson watched evil cop with amusement, just standing there with his arms crossed.
“We should go to the courthouse,” I said to the EA policemen who had grabbed me. One of them looked back at evil cop. He must have realized that anything evil cop had done to me before would be ten times worse if he caught me now. Justice did still exist here.
He pushed me. “We probably should. Move it, kid.”
San Ra Description:
This particular alien was a San Ra, a bug-like race that lived in swarms by the thousands in the outer ring. Its antenna waved over its clacking pincers. Any closer and I knew razor sharp claws would lunge at my throat, propelled by wings tucked away in its shiny back carapace.
Location: Unknown Asteroid on the outskirts of Earth Alliance colonized space.
“Something’s not right, sir,” Dr. Calver said.
Captain Phin, tinkering with the final adjustments to the machine he stood behind, looked over his shoulder. “We’re about to start, Calver. Not the best time.”
“Sir, there’s an unusual spike in—”
“Is it a major concern?”
Dr. Calver raised the Holopad readouts so that Captain Phin could see them. “I—” He tapped the keys a couple times. Then sighed. “I don’t know.”
Captain Phin stood and clapped his hands together. “Then I deem it a non-issue. Stick with the science stuff, doctor, and let me and the Earth Alliance handle the hard decisions. Get Mathers over here.”
Dr. Calver mumbled a disgruntled “Okay”, then dragged the machine back a few more feet from the testing location, just to be absolutely sure he’d be safely out of range. The machine was a blocky, heavy thing, nearly as tall and wide as he was, covered in blinking lights and fluctuating graphs that Dr. Calver was forced to keep a sharp eye on. Any change in those readings and, well…it would spell bad news for all of them.
Mathers came over from the far side of the rocky space they had cleared away for the test. “Just checked anchor points, sir. Core is stabilized on each quadrant of the asteroid. This rock should hold together when we fire it up.”
“Which we shouldn’t do,” Dr. Calver muttered under his breath.
Mathers turned to him in confusion. “Is there a problem with the machine, Calver?”
Captain Phin pounded Dr. Calver on the back of his bulky space suit. Dr. Calver took a miniscule step away, while still allowing Captain Phin to rest his hand on his shoulder. Just because the suits were made to withstand the harsh environments of deep space didn’t mean he wanted to risk Captain Phin puncturing a hole in it.
“Calver thinks what we’re doing is unsafe,” Captain Phin said. “He seems to believe that creating the biggest advancement in the history of the human race since discovering fire should come without risk, despite our orders.”
The machine beeped a warning. Dr. Calver checked it. “Unknown power signature growing stronger—”
“Fire it up, Mathers,” Captain Phin ordered.
Mathers hesitated. “Sir, if there’s an issue with the readings, maybe we should listen. You know this experiment has a very high potential for instability.”
Captain Phin’s hand dropped from Mathers’ shoulder. “Mathers, you will fire up the portal device or I will have you both put in confinement back on the ship until we return to Earth Alliance headquarters. I will not fail to complete orders because of a few hiccups. Is that clear?”
Mathers stepped around the machine next to Dr. Calver, muttering a quiet “Sorry”, over their private coms. He flicked the on switch. The sound of something monumental, a world shifting, began. The machine’s hum grew in volume.
The bright light that had suddenly appeared in the area they had sanctioned off grew brighter, causing their helmet screens to darken to compensate. The rocks and dust around them began to pick up in a newly created wind, even in the vacuum of space.
“We need to get farther back, sir!” Mathers called.
Captain Phin nodded. “Pack it up, boys!”
The sound from the machine elevated in pitch as Mathers and Dr. Calver dragged it away from the growing light hovering in the space in front of them. There was an earsplitting groan of rock shifting, sounding as if it had torn all the way through the asteroid. Suddenly a new sound was added: the sound of something, not unlike fabric, tearing.
Mathers checked the readings as he ducked behind the machine to escape the rocks and debris being pushed from the space.
“Asteroid stable, but it won’t hold much longer, sir!” Mathers yelled.
“A little longer!” Captain Phin said.
“The energy spike!” Dr. Calver said.
And then Captain Phin waved his hand. “That’s enough! Cut it off!”
Dr. Calver and Mathers’ hands thumped and fumbled against one another as they both frantically tried to quiet the now-shaking machine. They hit the off switch at the same time. The machine went quiet and silence ensued; the kind of silence that followed after something had gone very, very wrong.
The three men picked up their heads and looked in the direction of where the light had been. A shallow depression had been carved away, as if a miniature meteor had struck when they all hadn’t been looking.
Dr. Calver squinted. There were odd shapes at the bottom of the depression. If he didn’t know any better he’d say they almost looked like bodies...
Captain Phin approached the spot.
“Sir, I think we should stay away,” Mathers said, voicing Dr. Calver’s thoughts.
As he drew closer to the edge, Captain Phin pulled out his pistol from the holster attached to the side of his suit. It was a Falken F-Series model, standard issue for all EA officers, and used propulsed plasma rounds to propel the bullets, even in the vacuum of space.
He reached the shallow hole and looked down.
“What the—?” Captain Phin started.
A sharp crackle of static over the team’s radio, like a pistol going off. Captain Phin’s head snapped back. He hung in time, as though suspended in the final moments of his life, before his suit-laden body crumpled to the ground. Dark figures, obscured by dust and debris, rose from the shadows of the depression.
Mathers couldn’t help it: he screamed. “What did you—NO! NO!” He was still screaming as four simultaneous shots tore into his body, cutting him off.
Dr. Calver huddled behind the machine, sobbing as quietly as he could. He flicked on the personal recording device on his suit as the figures’ shadows approached and covered him.
“We never—” The sobbing made it hard to finish his sentences. The shadows were so dark to his mind, growing darker every second. “We never should have done this. I love you, Jen, honey, I love you so much—”
Dr. Calver looked up and found himself surrounded. His eyes widened when he realized what he was looking at. “But…you’re…you’re with—”
Four more shots. Dr. Calver’s body sank to the ground.
The lead figure hadn’t even looked at the man he was shooting; he was too busy checking his new surroundings.
“They’re here,” he said in a voice as sharp as broken glass. “Destroy the machine. Find them.”