I burst into the cockpit, after a dead run from the aft end of the mid-deck and fell to one knee behind the main systems bank. Near a complete collapse, I braced myself up on the back of one of the seats in front of the main console. I was taking deep breaths and rubbing my chest, trying to calm down. I was shivering with cold, exhausted and physically spent. My body felt as if I’d run the entire two-month IDSA fitness and conditioning stress series in a single day.

“Object SM5 off port bow status, data and vitals on visual,” I ordered, breathlessly.

Information on the other SM5 came flooding in. The main console display screen was immediately awash with data and records. It was too much information for a single display.

“All screens merge and display,” I ordered.
I stood up and took a step back as the screens through the cockpit, as well as the holographic display over the viewport came alive with the merged data. All displays functioning collectively, I could see the whole ship end to end. All systems, throughout the ship, appeared to be functioning but there were sketchy details on life support, power and crew vitals.

“Show me crew status and vitals.”
“DATA UNAVAILABLE AT THIS TIME,” replied the ship’s AI.
“Data update estimation.”
“Saiyaku,” I cursed.

Not even the frontline of current processing capacity and calculation speed works fast enough, when you’re waiting for valuable information. What was happening here? Was I confused? Seeing things?

After the discovery of this identical SM5 earlier, I dashed from the upper deck observation lounge back down to the Evac gear compartment. I tried to quickly emerge from the Heavy Evac suit without adequate decompress and immediately collapsed to the floor. I was completely spent after twenty-plus hours of ship repair in zero atmosphere. I shivered uncontrollably and vomited on the gear compartment deck. When I could eventually get on my feet, I re-tethered the suit for power re-charge and raced to the cockpit. Here I stood, looking at data on what was my own ship. This, somehow, was another SM5. And it was floating just 2,843 km off our port side.

“November 28, 2187? Confirmed?”

I had no response. I stood silent. The SM5 floating out there was nearly twenty-three months older than the SM5 I was presently stationed aboard. I was exhausted and weak but I didn’t think that I was delusional. This had to be seen. After the Evac suit re-powered fully, my plan was to make a ship-to-ship excursion. I would find out what secrets this other SM5 was hiding.

Already, I had my suspicions.

[Communication sent: 17JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

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