view_port_spaceI sat transfixed, as the ship shook and trembled with increasing ferocity. In the cockpit, the fragments of smashed equipment and litter from nearly two years of abuse by the crazed crew vibrated and tumbled along with the ship. I ignored it all and leaned forward to stare at the data on the screen before me.

The distance between the LMO ship and the SM5 was now over 1300 km and there was no reasonable expectation that I could make the distance in an Evac suit without running empty and asphyxiating out there in the space between the two vessels.

I couldn’t make the distance. I couldn’t return to my ship. I couldn’t retrieve anything. I couldn’t…

In a fury, I leapt up from my seat and placed a savage kick to the underside of the console that did little more than return my injured ankle to an exceedingly painful state. I fell back into the chair, angrier than before. Suddenly, it was quiet again. In between bursts of disturbance from outside the ship, I could hear the soft hum of the few working consoles left undamaged by the rampaging LMOs. It was a moment of calm. The cockpit was warm but it reeked of LMO stink. It was an odor like a stagnant fish pond on a hot day.

My ankle throbbed madly. There was still a burning sensation in my shoulder from where the LMO bit me. I thought that if I was doomed to stay on this ship then I might as well be pain free. I pulled a pain suppressor autoinjector from my hip pocket, popped off the cap with my thumb, and struck my leg with the tip. There was a soft snap, followed by a sharp sting, as the needle pierced my clothing and the skin beneath. After a few seconds, I pulled the needle from my leg and let the spent cartridge fall to the floor among the piles of litter and fragments of what was once flight control and navigational consoles. A warm trickle ran up my spine. Most of the pain quickly faded away and I began to feel a faint sensation of weightlessness.

In a momentary state of ecstasy, I stared out of the viewport at the stars and the vast expanse of space beyond. The view was breathtaking to behold. To the port side: a super massive black hole, growing larger every minute. It had us in its grasp and it was going to swallow this ship whole. To the starboard side: a beautiful blue star field, a billion tiny specs of light, swirling about in a mass of luminescent gases. Somewhere out there was the SM5. At this distance, it was just a splinter in the dark. I longed to see that ship again. Thanks to Spegg and the other LMOs, I knew that I would not.

I can understand the LMOs wanting me dead. As a race of bio-engineered workers who escaped this reality to forge a new history in an alternate timeline, they felt the need to eliminate me and what knowledge I had about their past. But the LMOs also wanted something from my ship, something tangible. They came a long way and endured a maddening wait to retrieve it. Without any viable means to make the ship-to-ship excursion and locate the object that the LMOs were after, I will never know what drove them to that state of madness.

I have failed.

Now forever separated from the SM5, the question haunted me even more. What could they have possibly wanted to take from my ship? What made the SM5 so special? Realistically, there were only a handful of things that differentiated my ship from this one: dead LMOs, garbage, and me. Of course there was also Maxim, my other self. And the more I thought about Maxim, lying dead on the floor of the lower deck, the more frustrated I became. He was, in all aspects, a complete version of me. Down to the cellular level, he was me. Our paths were different because of our history. His was a life of labor and servitude under the LMOs. Mine was not. But he was certainly all me. We were no different than these two ships, with one exception: history.

History…

“History!” I shouted. Finally, I understood.

Each of the ships had a different history. The SM5, my ship, had a database that included, among all things, a complete historical record. As deep-space explorers, these ships carried an entire record of human history up to launch date, just in case some aspect of past events or some tiny piece of humankind was needed as a reference against future findings. Therefore, the SM5 had a complete record of the LMO’s history as well. Maxim told me that the LMOs wanted me dead and to erase any history of their lives as a slave race. With all the chaos and pain, I never made the connection to an actual history, a recorded history. The SM5 had all the recorded data that the LMOs wanted to erase and I could still retrieve that data at this distance.

I launched myself from the chair and moved to the blinking console with the coordinates of the SM5 out there in space. Using the interface to access the onboard communications, I opened a ship-to-ship channel with the SM5 and accessed the main systems. The AI launched an access entry barrier. My personal identity code allowed a bypass.

Working quickly, I accessed the historical data and queued up the entire record. I wanted everything, a comprehensive history with as much detail as I could store in the time I had before the supermassive swallowed us alive. More than anything else, I needed a record of the entire LMO program from earliest experiments in transgenics to the creation and licensing of all 23,574 LMOs in service. But I was not going to leave anything to chance. I queued up the entire historical data record. I also selected all of my personal log entries and the entire data file on the SM5. Lastly, I pulled my own personal files and those file pertaining to Spegg. It would take time to transfer the data. Looking out the viewport, it was evident that time was something I did not have. I selected a transfer point on the local console and executed the transfer order. The data began to stream.

I couldn’t leave the data on file here in this ship. It wasn’t safe. Soon, we would be crossing over the event horizon and entering the supermassive. If this was a wormhole, as Maxim stated, I had to be prepared for any eventuality. In case of a massive electrical disturbance, I wanted to keep the data and supporting files copied to a removable medium. The data was collecting rapidly and I began to frantically search the console stations for a storage medium. As the cockpit shared space with most all of the systems in the ship, there was a large supply of holographic data transfer patches made from flexible photosensitive material. The data management and technology personnel called this an M-patch. Each patch was its own self-contained system, so I could save all the data I needed, peel off the backing and stick the ultra-thin data patch to my arm. I could wear the patch in a powered state for as long as I had body heat to keep it functioning.

In a cold, inactive state, the patch was rigid. I pressed my thumb to the activator and held it there until the center began to glow. The patch quickly appeared on the console screen. I selected the data transfer point and pointed the stream toward the patch. Connection made, I watched as the historical record and files began to transfer to the patch. It would be quite some time before the process was completed and I could then stick the warm, pliable patch to my skin for safekeeping. Anxiously, I watched as volumes and volumes of data streamed to the patch.

My nervous thoughts turned to the collision course with the supermassive black hole. Our speed was increasing. Time was running out. Maxim suggested that this deformation would act as a wormhole and that the ship would pass through to another place in time and space. Would I have enough time to gather all the files? Was I missing anything? Would the pull of the supermassive disrupt the transfer of data from the SM5? And, realistically, what were the chances I would survive any of this?

Zero? Less?

[Communication sent: 19FEB2186 Shinkai Maru 5]