Chapter 6. Kill Switch...Click

Log Entry 18:33:18 – 01.05.2186

Uncertainty has set in. I didn’t actually see Spegg in the survival pod I re-acquired a few days ago, as the communications lines from the ship to the pod were not functioning correctly at that time. I also didn’t see Spegg die at the center of that black hole, as he was further from sight than I could navigate the ship safely and return intact. I assumed everything, yes. I cannot even be certain that I had a survival pod docked and locked, not having actually opened the hatch. Therefore, I did today what I thought was best in this present situation.

I finished examining all the scan data that came back from the nav station yesterday and confirmed that there are numerous identical survival pods popping in and out of existence around the region of the supermassive. As stated earlier, there are incredible fluctuations in the mass and density of each. Those closer to the supermassive are “flickering” more rapidly than those on the outliers. Curious but cautious, I moved the SM5 within hailing distance of a pod that is furthest away from the group. I now have a renegade pod off my starboard bow, belonging to a Chandra-class STS-93 ship no different than the SM5. This I have verified and documented. At present, I’m keeping the SM5 in a blind spot, both visually and electronically. The hailing frequency is open but silent on our end. I’m getting a soft beacon back from the onboard systems that tells me all is functioning normally aboard the pod. I also have confirmation from the pod that life support systems are active and functioning. Something is alive in there. Spegg or otherwise, something living has a pod belonging to this same type of ship just outside my hull.

As I connect to the remote management systems, I can silently monitor the all the pod’s functions. If I wanted to, I could log the pilot off the system, and take complete control. I could reel that pod in, lock it down, flood it with gas, open it up and see with my own eyes what kind of phantom is piloting one of our pods around this area of deep space. Of course, I could also simply shut the whole system down and let whatever is inside that thing freeze to death.

[Communication sent: 05JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

Log Entry 16:26:23 – 01.06.2186

When linking up and intentionally crashing the support systems on a survival pod, you have to know what you’re doing.

Each pod is designed to keep its occupant alive and revivable under any conditions, outside of a complete burst or decompression or hull breach. Excluding those extreme situations, the occupant of a survival pod is completely protected until assistance can arrive and reclaim the craft. Even in the event that power or O2 fail or run short in supply, an emergency backup system immediately floods the compartment of the craft with a chemical gas mixture and a separate liquid nutrient formulation to create a stable, foam-like anesthesia/nutrient media throughout the entire interior. Those that work on these crafts refer to the process as “frothing.” I hear that it’s a nasty experience, complete with full-body spasms and choking. Eventually, the sedative takes over and you become completely dormant.

Obviously, the purpose is to immediately put the occupant into a chemically-induced hibernation stasis that will allow the survival pod to continue its operation on low power until an authorized recovery. In the end, I hear that it actually takes quite a bit of work to remove the dense foam from the body and revive the subject. Nevertheless, in order to shut the whole system down, using the remote management system, you have to know how to deactivate the stasis “frother” systems first [image attached]. Once again, my three years working with engineering and mechanics on ships of this type taught me how to effectively “kill” a survival pod and its occupant. But I didn’t do that. I withdrew. I had to. It made little sense. And it was maddening.

[Communication sent: 06JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

pod_systems_termination

Log Entry 16:09:52 – 01.07.2186

Maybe I’ve been in this ship for too long already. With all of the phantom pods and ships blinking in and out of existence, I already feel like I’m seeing ghosts. Now, I’m feeling strange presences as well.

Just now, something incomprehensible gave me a warning, a recognizable but wholly indescribable sensation. Shaken, I disengaged my silent run behind the renegade survival pod I was watching yesterday. With my hands on the console, I was already set to lock the pilot out of the control systems, crash the emergency stasis program, and shut down the life support. Instead, I changed my course of action. Suddenly, I was overcome by an uneasy feeling. The sensation was something familiar and strangely foreboding at the same. Outside of this edgy feeling, my rational side told me that I may require this particular survival pod in the near future. I could imagine dozens of reasons to throw the kill switch on the pod out there and sit back as Spegg or whatever occupant suffocated, froze and expired. But it was the reasons or scenarios that I couldn’t imagine that swayed my final decision. This specific pod, above all others in the region, had the strongest signal. There was a genuine measure of importance with this one. It was different, special. I hesitated. I stopped and reversed course. I was puzzled but, at the same time, absolutely certain.

Quietly, I navigated the SM5 away from the pod. I ordered the nav system to track this pod and separate it from the rest. I wanted to be able to get back to this target later. Maybe the occupant lives for another day. Maybe I return to it tomorrow and finish the job. Given everything we’ve already been through, I’m not absolutely certain about anything anymore. But I know that I should move on.

What’s going on? Have I eaten recently? When did I sleep last?

[Communication sent: 07JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

Log Entry 20:11:21 – 01.07.2186

I have been on this ship too long. I must be mad for navigating away from a perfect opportunity to take back the pod that Spegg might have used to escape from the ship. Whether or not I actually believe that he drifted off past the event horizon and has now been reduced to a single stream of energy, is immaterial.

The International Deep Space Administration has policy that clearly states that all errant pod jettisons must and will be re-acquired by all means necessary. I am therefore setting course plot lines at the nav station [image attached] for all 22 remaining detected objects. Since the previous attempt to dock and lock an unknown pod caused a bizarre gravitational deformity of space-time and threatened a ship-wide systems malfunction, we’re going to proceed with extreme caution. As the range in distance to the furthest target now exceeds a 1.75 ± 0.10 AU from the SM5, I am planning to take the targets nearest the supermassive first. I also plan to re-acquire the prime target from today’s earlier failure… dead last.

[Communication sent: 07JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

SM5_navigation

Log Entry 19:01:29 – 01.08.2186

For errant survival pods that flicker in and out of existence without explanation, I have crafted a remote kill switch that only requires us to be within hailing and transfer distance. I have to be quick and deliberate in my actions, since chasing phantoms is a hit and miss game.

Today, I tracked two pod targets nearest our immediate vicinity. Once again, I dropped in behind both and I’m keeping the SM5 in a blind spot. The hailing frequency is open but silent. All systems aboard the pods are functioning normally, including life support systems. In recent attempts to gain control of these pods, I’ve struggled with their strange intangible qualities and the gravitational anomalies that envelop them. Sometimes, these pods are very solid. Sometimes, they appear to be no more than an illusion. We’re not going to attempt a dock and lock again. Given that, I have very little time to execute my plan to disable the pods and terminate the life support. Therefore, I have written a series of rapid executables in a script [image attached] that I plan to transmit to each pod’s main data system core. Illusion or not, if I can connect to their onboard systems, I can also shut them down.

Once installed, the executables script will instantly log the occupant off the controls, deactivate the stasis systems, shut down life support systems, and re-route internal power resources. At this point, the occupant will be powerless and, soon enough, lifeless. Then, to make certain that the pod doesn’t surface again, the executables will close and lock all exterior propulsion vents and over-charge the propulsion system. If done correctly, pressure and temperature will increase radically. The last segment of executables floods the system with a massive power surge to provide the necessary activation energy.

The whole pod should explode brilliantly.

[Communication sent: 08JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

commands_file

Log Entry 16:20:33 – 01.09.2186

Success, I think. One mysterious, phantom survival pod and one presumed occupant are down.

According to the plots on the nav system, there are 21 remaining targets. From time I unleashed the executables on the pod’s main data system core, to final detonation, was less than an hour. The view from the starboard-side observation port was amazing [image attached]. The pod went off with a spectacular discharge, a fitting end to a maddening problem. Yet, the mystery still remains. Even though I can eliminate all these strange invaders, I may never know what lies beneath the pod exterior until I physically dock one and unseal the hatchway. Could it be Spegg in one of these pods? Could they all be Spegg? If the number of these anomalies is somehow caused by a deformity of space-time, could I be terminating something altogether benign?

Am I, myself, in one of these wayward vessels?

[Communication sent: 09JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

pod_explosion

Log Entry 08:55:37 – 01.10.2186

The continuing mission: From one target to the next, I’ve already locked on to the second pod and sent the executables.

Many things go through your mind, when you have your finger on the button. Primarily, it is the gravity of your actions you’re left pondering. A keystroke is a cheap and easy way to dispatch with your problems. Onscreen, the pod is flickered again. No matter. Flicker away. The data received has already been working for some time now. In this space or any other parallel dimension, the occupant – Spegg or whoever that may be – succumbs to the cold and the lack of O2 and the pod eventually blows.

Since these survival pods are often meant for prolonged journeys, they store an enormous amount of power and systems energy. When they go off, in the darkness of space, it’s a truly exotic and magnificent light. In any kind of atmosphere, it would make a significant blast. In a densely-knit municipality, it would surely level everything in a one kilometer radius. I’m counting down the last minute. The pod’s vents are closed and locked, so there’s nowhere to run.

With only seconds more, I am peering over the top of the console at the systems bank in the cockpit and watching the pod through the viewport. Soon, another explosion, one more phantom pod deleted from the nav system. I couldn’t stop the process now even if I wanted to. I didn’t write a backside contingency plan key into the code. I’m waiting, watching, wondering. What am I doing? The International Deep Space Administration has policy that clearly states that all errant pod jettisons must and will be re-acquired by all means necessary. I’m hunting them down and terminating them. This is destruction of company property and evidence of sabotage to company property. I may never see…

Detonation finally. Brilliant light. So close to…

»»abrupt transmission end««

[Communication sent: 10JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

Alert 12:03:13 – 01.10.2186

Automated Catastrophic Event Reporting System
Details of Transmission:

IDSA-Data Center Vessel Code: RXJ1242-11
Vessel Serial Number: 10024X-TA0008
Vessel Classification: Chandra-Class STS-93 Deep Space
Vessel Administrator: JAXA
Vessel Status: Underway, Functioning, Overdue
Vessel Present Location: Unknown

Incident Type: Class Two Hull Breach (Penetration of Structure by Unknown Outside Elements)
Affected Sectors: 3, 4, 5, 14
Decompression: Significant Values Throughout Affected Sectors
Life Support: Discontinuous Throughout Affected Sectors Only
O2 Systems: Non-Functioning Throughout Affected Sectors Only
Data Core: Unaffected, Secure
Power Core: Unaffected, Contained, Stable
Airlocks and Hatchway Doors: Operational, Secured
Available Crew Status: 1 Crew Reporting, 1 LMO Not Reporting

Secondary Equipment Status:
Heavy Evac. (Suit 7) Powered, Activated, Tethered
Ident. Code 0307291227 – Maxim Akihiko Broussad, Communications Satellite Continuance Managing Project Officer L2, JAXA, IDSA

[Report Status: Transmitted: Tanegashima COMS, 10JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

Next Chapter: 7. EVAC and Repair

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transmission details:

A communications specialist in the year 2185 is abandoned in deep space by a deranged Living Modified Organism, setting up a series of events that lead him back in time to a ruined home world ruled by a wealthy eccentric, a scientist playing God, and the very creature that first stranded him in space.
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