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Log Entry 19:38:27 – 01.13.2186

The environment on the SM5 had become one of calamity, decompression, and panic.

My heart was pounding in my chest, as I sealed myself into the Heavy Evac suit [image attached]. My fingers, inside the suit hands, nervously fired up the internal systems and fully powered the suit. In an instant, the onboard systems downloaded current ship status reports and I got my first look at the damage done by the pod flak. I squinted at the display on the face screen. As I had imagined, there were significant breaches in the port-side observation lounge, medical lab, and the aft hold. I was horrified to see a hole punched through the aft section of the upper deck corridor. I keyed in to the main ship systems and shut the alarms off. The quiet returned and the flickering madness ceased. The augmented reality systems in the suit helmet allowed me to look through the decks and see damages and environmental data as part of the peripheral readouts. I moved forward, stepped off the staging platform and jettisoned the tether.

The ship’s equipment lift was just around the corner from the Evac gear compartment. Taking the lift to the upper deck would position me within the sealed section of the main corridor and I could get a first-hand look at damage done there by the pod flak. I stepped toward the door. The suit was powered throughout and moved as if it weighed nothing. It takes a little time to get used to the suit’s reactions to your movements and gestures, but I managed to stay on my feet. As I rounded the corner and stepped up on to the equipment lift, I readied myself for what would be a huge undertaking. These ships are constantly being bombarded by all manner of space debris, including micrometeoroids. The hull is made from numerous components, one being a composite material made with microencapsulated healing agents. Unfortunately, this type of built-in safeguard is only made to stop small cracks before they become problematic. The flak from the exploding pod created significant damage to hull integrity. I would have to manually seal up each breach. I wondered if I would have enough time and materials.

[Communication sent: 13JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

heavy_evac_suit

Log Entry 07:54:31 – 01.12.2186

The whole ship rocked and I was thrown forward against the console at the systems bank in the cockpit. The second pod had let off a massive explosion that sent fragments tearing through upper-deck sections of the SM5, including damage to the central corridor that runs the length of the ship.

I have never been witness to such automated calamity. I bolted from my seat and hit the hatchway. In the corridor was madness. Alarms rang, lights flashed, automated response systems were shouting orders, closing off hatchways and sealing sections of the ship. By the time I had emerged from the upper-level cockpit, the ship had already closed off the port-side observation lounge, medical lab, and an aft hold. Access denied. For a moment, I was stunned, motionless, my mouth agape. Just then, two compartment hatchways along the upper corridor slammed shut in front of me and hissed deafeningly as they expanded into the corridor walls and created an air-tight seal. Not knowing the extent of the damage, I shook myself from my frozen state and jumped the personnel lift to the mid deck. I ran aft toward the Evac gear compartment. My heart raced. I clutched my chest and took deep breaths. The thought that I could find myself sealed off in a compartment with no other crew onboard to resolve the damages and release unaffected sections sent panic through my entire body. Fortunately, the mid-level corridor was open through the entire length and I ran like mad. As I reached the Evac gear compartment, I heard loud bursts from above. I crouched and covered my ears. Looking up, I half expected the whole upper deck to collapse in on the mid ship. At that point, I could only assume that and sealed compartments within medical had violently exploded in the vacuum. I leapt to my feet and launched myself into the Evac gear compartment. The compartment housed general mobility suits for ten crew members and two heavy Evac rigs. Preparing for the worst, I took up with one of the heavy suits.

As I entered the suit and fired up the internal systems, all I could think about was the never-ending series of events that seemed to be constantly working against my getting home. I may never see home again. I sealed the suit.

[Communication sent: 12JAN2186 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]

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]

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 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 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 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 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 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 17:07:44 – 01.04.2186

I have a terrible uneasy feeling in my gut. After a long night spent trying to resolve the unthinkable, something new is wrong. I’m back at the main console at the navigation station in the cockpit, staring at a screen filled with new potential targets that have the same mass and density data as the survival pod that I just yesterday witnessed going through the supermassive black hole. Spegg and the pod are gone. Who are these others? Why are they here? Is it Spegg… again?

[Communication sent: 04JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

targets_on_nav

Log Entry 19:24:12 – 01.03.2186

Unfortunate, disastrous and terrible. From all perspectives, the events of yesterday that took the survival pod and Spegg toward a horrific end are as puzzling as they were shocking.

I am bothered by both the unusual nature of the event, as well as the loss of my captive and the reclaimed survival pod. Although I regarded Spegg as a vile and devious creature, whose actions were nothing short of deliberate sabotage, I believe that Spegg deserved to be delivered to JAXA and the IDSA for examination and assessment. In the end, Spegg would be dissected and dissolved, but even that fate seems less appalling than being drawn helplessly toward a voracious singularity.

For the record, I still have no plausible explanation for the strange gravitational event that seized the ship and caused such calamity. Additionally, I now have no access to the survival pod. The pod would certainly come in useful, if I needed to depart the SM5 for any reason. Deep space explorers like this ship don’t come fitted with landing components and certainly would not stand up to an atmospheric re-entry. The pod may be badly needed at a future point.

[Communication sent: 03JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

Log Entry 19:52:42 – 01.02.2186

Both the survival pod and Spegg are gone.

Before I could finish preparations and open the hatchway to the pod, the SM5 suffered a massive series of increasingly-violent tremors. Some bizarre gravitational deformity of space-time apparently seized the SM5 and threatened to wrench Spegg and the survival pod from the starboard hatchway. Every light and siren in the SM5 was instantly blaring. Power, O2, electronics, operating systems, navigation, internal gravity, and nearly all subsystems were on the verge of complete stoppage.

From a visual standpoint, I thought that the collar around the pod and most of the hatchway would surely tear away from the ship. Every electronic system that controlled the connectivity or separation of the pod was unresponsive. Only the manual release mechanisms allowed me to unlock and jettison Spegg and the re-acquired pod. When released, the SM5 shook violently once again and then no further drag forces could be perceived.

Over time, internal ship functions returned to normal status. From the starboard-side observation port, I could see the pod moving through the accretion disk, and past the event horizon, with ever-increasing speed. Hours passed, but I stood and watched until it was over. Soon enough, I saw the pod disappear from view into the heart of the supermassive [image attached]. The pod’s remote management systems monitored activities until 18:57:09, at which time the pod apparently crossed the final boundary and ceased to exist.

[Communication sent: 02JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

porthole_supermassive1

Alert 16:04:23 – 01.02.2186

All COMS: This is Maxim Akihiko Broussad, onboard the Shinkai Maru 5. We have encountered a massive gravitational disturbance that is threatening to tear the ship apart. Ship engines and systems are powerless against… no known explanation… the survival pod may have… as density increases… somehow

»»abrupt transmission end««

[Communication sent: 02JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

Log Entry 17:11:42 – 01.01.2186

TARGET ACQUIRED!

The Survival pod and Spegg are docked and locked to the ship. The hatch is secured from inside the SM5 [image attached] and Spegg is completely captive. The plan worked without fail. Within seconds of exiting behind Spegg’s survival pod, I signaled the craft and launched the remote management systems. Control of the pod was ours before Spegg could somehow disappear again. Communications lines from the ship to the pod are not presently responding, so I have no knowledge of Spegg’s present condition and I can’t monitor his activities. Nevertheless, I am about to flood the compartment with the hydrogen sulfide gas mixture and put this mutinous saboteur down for a good long while.

[Communication sent: 01JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

pod_locked

Log Entry 15:34:57 – 01.01.2186

After the strange disappearance of Spegg and the survival pod yesterday, just before we could override the pod’s systems and complete the re-acquisition, I made an interesting discovery.

Frustrated that the survival pod I thought was in our grasp had simply vanished, I immediately began reaffirming all other similar targets in the region. After I called up every target that matched the mass and density of the survival pod that Spegg escaped with, I began tracking the objects individually and measuring the consistency in properties for each over a period of time. Much to my astonishment, I found that many of the survival-pod-sized targets that the scanners are tracking in this region have what appears to be a wavering quality of mass. It’s as if some of these targets are flickering in and out of existence. To make things even more difficult to believe, some targets flicker faster than others.

Those targets closest in distance to the supermassive black hole in this region appear to be less viable than those at a greater distance. Therefore, I have a theory to test and a new target locked at the 0.73 ± 0.01 AU range. Presently, I am confirming coordinates with the nav systems and spooling up the hyperdrive. My plan is, once again, to drop in within hailing distance of this new target, lock in, control and re-acquire the pod.

In short time, we’re going to discover just what these flickering anomalies are all about, by taking aim at the weakest target that is near to the event horizon surrounding the supermassive. If all goes well, Spegg may be in for quite a surprise. Then again, I might just have another ghost ship on my hands.

[Communication sent: 01JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

Log Entry 16:32:24 – 12.31.2185

I’m staring into empty space.

The main console at the navigation station in the cockpit shows me nothing. Minutes ago, there was a survival pod on screen. Specifically, it was the survival pod from the SM5. This survival pod had the same mass, the same density and, hopefully, the same pilot. It was no small task to navigate the SM5 alone to this particular region. Granted, out of the 23 detected objects, this particular blip was closer than the rest. But it also had the strongest reading and energy signature returns from the scans I performed.

Given the information on the target movement, after a lock on its position, we set a short jump exit vector within 165 km. With a little surprise, this moderate distance would have allowed us to use recall signaling systems to attract and re-capture the pod. As we exited the jump into the planned coordinates, I punched up the locator and sent a ping out to the pod. I received a positive return and queued up the pod signaling and remote management systems. From the parent ship, it takes about a minute to hail a lost pod, log the pilot off the system, and take control. But within seconds, the target space was empty. This makes no logical sense. Spegg and that survival pod were out there.

Now, I’m staring stupidly at a blank screen. No pod. No jump signature. No debris. No Spegg. At this point, the question becomes: What were we seeing and where did it go?

[Communication sent: 31DEC2185 Shinkai Maru 5]

Log Entry 05:59:08 – 12.30.2185

This is troubling. The search for Spegg and the survival pod has been hindered by inconsistencies in the data we’ve received from the scans.

Unusual as it may sound, the scan data shows numerous inconsistencies in “preferred object size” numbers from scan to scan. I can’t rule out failing system code or software or calculations, given that Spegg engineered a fairly devastating systems crash prior to departing the ship. This seems strangely different. Something isn’t right. Since systems native to a deep-space vessel like the SM5 have enormous fault tolerance, as well as both roll-forward and roll-back recovery for different catastrophic error situations, it is almost as if some objects kept appearing and disappearing at random. At one earlier point, I altered the scans to return object numbers using the mass and density data for the SM5 herself. I waited for several hours before an ongoing scan returned an exact match. Thinking it might have been another ship arriving, I jumped at the nav system monitor and tried to lock in the location data. In an instant, it was completely gone.

Adding an increased level of confusion to the situation is the fact that the ship’s communications array also picked up a signal fragment at the same time. Due to the duration and content, however, this may be simply a signal reflection. I am well aware that space is an extraordinarily unpredictable environment, but even for extreme deep space, this is an unusual set of occurrences. My plan is to put these concerns aside for now. I have a fish to catch.

[Communication sent: 30DEC2185 Shinkai Maru 5]

Log Entry 17:19:43 – 12.29.2185

I finished the modifications to the pod decontamination feeds, using the gas supplies from one of the stasis vessels. When I re-acquire the pod, I can control a flood of hydrogen sulfide gas mixture into the compartment from the touch of a button [image attached]. Spegg should be very little trouble from that point forward. However, thanks to Spegg’s meddling with the integrity of the Central Data Core, the navigational information we have is imprecise at best. Since I had only a brief glimpse of Spegg’s survival pod location information, I’ve run scans of the area a dozen times now. Based on the strength of readings, I’ve catalogued 23 objects of similar size to the survival pod within a 1.52 ± 0.14 AU radius from the SM5. There is a bit of a margin to work within, as I’ve had to make adjustments based on the distance of the pod’s blip before the systems began to crash. In any case, it’s a vast area of space to search.

[Communication sent: 29DEC2185 Shinkai Maru 5]

decon_systems

Log Entry 06:24:17 – 12.28.2185

Since locating Spegg’s weak signal twelve days ago, I’ve been busy developing a plan to re-capture the survival pod and subdue Spegg.

Every ship with a survival pod comes equipped with reclamation mechanics. If you can get close enough to a rogue pod, you can remotely signal and recapture the pod, magnetically secure it to the ship, and even re-tool the ejection mechanisms to fire again. Done properly, I can re-use the pod and disembark the ship. First, I have to get Spegg out of the pod without incident. Fortunately, part of the reclamation process involves decontaminating the re-acquired pod.

From within the ship, you can scrub the entire interior of the pod with anti-bacterials, anti-microbials, ultra-violet light, etc. Due to the fact that I want the pod back for my own use and to see Spegg incarcerated, I’ve decided to hunt down the pod, recapture it, and flood the compartment with hydrogen sulfide and a few other exotic gasses from one of the long-term stasis pressure vessels on the ship.

As part of a cross-development program through JAXA and the IDSA, I spent three years working with engineering and mechanics on ships of this type. That experience became highly useful, as I’ve spent days re-engineering the injection feeds from the ship to the pod with the gas supplies from the stasis vessels. Once I have the pod locked back in, Spegg won’t be able to enter the SM5 without having me disengage the hatchway from inside the ship. Although it has never been tried on an LMO, I believe I can put Spegg into a chemically-induced stasis, evacuate the excess gas, open the hatch, and then secure Spegg for transport in one of the chambers. As part fish in design, these transgenics have fair metabolic flexibility. With the right mixture and a low-oxygen situation, I can hold Spegg until the supplies run out.

It appears that we are prepared to settle the score with our LMO. The hunt is on.

[Communication sent: 28DEC2185 Shinkai Maru 5]

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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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