Routine Scan

Story Seed “Search

The commander’s heavy footfalls echoed off the steel flooring of the deck. The ship was quiet, late during the third duty shift with only a skeleton crew running essential systems. “Computer, bring up the main sensor array and scan the system’s fourth planet.”

Alien life?

The possiblity was good. After all, that’s what our the earlier indications pointed to. We’re just here to make sure.

The main display flickered and pulled in tighter around the system, falling closer and closer to the fourth body orbiting the white hot sun.

It was amazing that there was any indication of life here at all. This star was too hot. Could our long range sensors be so fooled?

The scan resolved in slow passes, showing up as better and better resolution in what land masses it could make out. The blue-green glow of the display getting sharper and sharper around the fjords and islands. There was mostly just a liquid sea around this planet. Is it really water? How could that be with the planet so close to such a hot star?

The scan flashed complete. It started filling in the missing bits we didn’t have from our distant scans from months ago. It wasn’t contradicting anything so far. There’s lots of gases here that shouldn’t be unless there was something living. But what? There’s no direct life signs. Nothing else registered.

It was still such a mystery but Commander Sheppard needed to wake the science crew first. They needed to start more detailed scans that he didn’t understand how to start or read.

One of the other panels started flashing. He sipped his coffee and glanced over. It was the proximity warning.

“What… is … that …”

A tiny bogey had been closing fast. Shep watched it disappear from the close sensor array screen as it must have impacted. But there was no sound, no impact alarm, nothing. Just gone.

He hit the alarm and opened ship-wide comms.

“Intruder Alert!” He yelled, “This is not a drill.

“Unknown bogey possibly impacted or entered the hull. Be on high alert for anything! Impact site would have been deck 4 aft-starboard. Let’s get hand to hand ready. Lucas, Jann. You head directly there and report while en route. I will meet you there.”

He stood, closing the comms with a flick. His eyes focussed on the main display again as more data flowed in. Something “hot” started resolving on the life sensors.

“Holy shit.”

Shep opened the comms system again, but this time directly to Laura’s quarters. “Laura, you’re going to want to see this. Get to main bridge, you’ll see what I mean.” He closed the comms again.

Turning towards the main corridor, the weight he’d been feeling for weeks began to become lighter. The ship was slowing down. This wasn’t part of the pre-programming was it? Did we get close enough already?

He began running towards the ladder, grabbing his sidearm magnet-locked to the wall as he passed the doorway into the corridor. Sure hope we don’t come to a full stop or this could get messy.

He lowered himself down past 3 onto 4 and realized that it must have been the programmed slowdown but not a full brake yet. Down the left he could see Lucas approaching, his rifle lowered in safe position, finger on the safety. From the right he could here … something. Nothing he’d ever heard before. Like a squealing kitten or rabbit but somehow not.

“Where’s Jann?”

“Was gonna as you the same, Lucas.”

“Shit. She’s … ”

Clank of metal on metal came from the right. The two of them ran towards it.