white_knuckleThe blinding white light streamed mercilessly through the viewport, causing me to shake my head from side to side, desperately trying to avoid the assault. Outside the ship, a screaming, howling blast continued to gain in pitch and volume. I felt as if my ears would burst before too long. We continued to tumble out of control. All about the cockpit, there was violent shaking and rumbling and madness. The ship was coming apart. I felt helpless, strapped to a chair with useless controls in front of me.

I struggled to stay alert, in control. I clenched my fist, gritted my teeth, and shut my eyes tight. A massive jolt shook the ship and it groaned and squealed as the hull and the structure began to surrender to the outside forces. I wondered how long the ship would hold together, as it barreled through the turbulent wormhole toward that unknown destination. I wondered how long it would take. I wondered if it would kill me.

The outside pressure increased and the framework of the ship noisily protested. The interior pressure increased as well, squeezing me as if my body was clenched in a fist. The air was stifling. I screamed and screamed again but heard no sound over the shrill noise outside the ship. When there was no more breath in me, I seized against the belts that held me and went stiff. Then, without warning, the ship pitched violently forward, throwing me hard upward against the restraints. There was a loud pop, like a colossal bubble bursting. The ship felt suddenly motionless. The terrible howling noise from outside the ship quickly wound down and disappeared.

I took a few quick breaths and opened my eyes just slightly. Through the shallow slits of my eyelids, I could see that the light through the viewport had subsided. The running lamps in the cockpit were dark blue once more, signaling that the exotic matter pump was once again protecting the ship with a bubble of negative energy. A dull humming sound reverberated throughout the hull and a crisp crunching sound came from below.

I drew a single deep breath, closed my eyes again, and allowed myself to hang limp in my seat, waiting. Within a few seconds, the humming sound stopped and the ship fell forward with a gut-wrenching drop. The fall was brief, maybe fifteen or twenty meters, followed by a loud crunching slam as the ship struck something nose first and buried itself. My body lurched. My head whipped sharply downward with a snap. A streaking pain instantly ran through my neck and shoulders. The ship shuddered and rocked slightly as it came to rest.

When I opened my eyes, there was nothing. The cockpit was black. The intense light had all but blinded me. A host of ghost shapes in all colors, remnants of the intense light display, flooded my vision. I squinted and turned my gaze back and forth, trying to see through the dark. Slowly, familiar shapes and colors began to return to sight. The console lights winked softly at me through the darkness. The dim running lamps around the perimeter of the cockpit came into view. But there was nothing to see through the viewport.

There was a stinging electrical odor in the air. A soft hissing sound came from outside the ship, like hot metal in water. It was warm, too warm. Sweat rolled off my face and fell forward from my nose, dripping across the expanse of the cockpit toward the now darkened viewport. I then realized that I was hanging nearly upside down and face-forward toward the viewport. My one free hand roamed over the belt latches that held me to the chair. They were taut. If I depressed the latch release, I would fall forward all the way to the front of the ship, easily breaking my neck or my back.

While trying to find a safe way out of the belts, I stopped suddenly and turned an ear to the rear of the cockpit. Noises came from behind me. They were voices, quickly chattering, growing near. My mind spun. Who? The possibilities were endless. Then, a hissing, sputtering noise like a fiery-hot cutting torch broke the silence. A flash of light went up behind me, filling the darkness with a bright red glow. I smelled smoke. The chatter got louder. Then, with a clank, a small piece of metal fell from behind me and tumbled over the console base toward the front end of the cockpit. A hole had been cut into the ship and something was pushing its way inside.

As I fumbled for the fasteners on the belts again, the buzzing began. It sounded like a large insect, buzzing and darting through the air behind me. I turned my head from side to side but couldn’t turn far enough to see what it was. It then hovered into view off to my left. It was a large insect, but only partly organic. Commonly, it was known as an advanced-technology organism. It looked much like a damselfly, with four long translucent wings, a three-part body, a long, thin, segmented abdomen, and two large compound eyes that glowed green. The thin wings beat so quickly that they gave off a ghostly white blur.

As it hovered in mid-air before me, the eyes grew bright, flickered, stopped, and flickered again. It was registering me. I had seen this before, in a demonstration of advanced robotics that evaluated potential targets for military forces. The insect probe made a high electronic squeal as it reported back. The chattering on the outside of the ship turned to shouting. I quietly drew a deep breath.

The robotic insect moved closer and dipped slightly in the air before me. I didn’t move. I waited for it to do whatever it was going to do. A sequence of tiny lights on its back turned bright amber. Even before insect sounded the familiar warning chirp, I knew what was about to happen. The electro-muscular disrupter it carried with it filled the air with potent electric crackle. My muscles overloaded, convulsed, and went completely lifeless.

Immobilized but conscious, I hung limp in the chair as the insect flew away and the voices outside the ship grew louder. They began to cut their way through the hatchway above.

[Communication Relay: 25FEB2086 Alexander Island, Antarctica]

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