As Sam grabbed one of the tubes filled with nutrient paste and started to suck on it, Fix projected a hologram in front of her and started playing the recordings.
“Year 629, Day 251”, A narrating voice said as the recording started to play.
The room was still in a working state, aged but in good condition. In it three men were discussing something, they seemed to be frustrated and angry. It took a while before sound jumped in, just as one of the men grabbed another by his collar.
“Damnit man, don’t you realise what this means? The whole mission has been compromised. We won’t be able to reach our goal, we won’t be able to finish our objective and we can’t even warn them about it as the coms are dead.”
The third man just watched as the second man removed the hands of the first from his collar. “I know what it means, but all hope isn’t lost yet. You know how big and complicated ship AI’s are, it has only been down for two years. It might still be able to fix whatever is wrong with it. They are made to be self-repairing, to seek out disturbances in their code and fix them. It just costs time.”
“Time that we don’t have! You know how small our window is. If we stall too much, nobody will write it off as a small calculation fluctuation. Arriving a year or two too late is normal, five isn’t. People will ask questions and they will start digging in the logs.”
“Logs that we’ll clean up once this is all over. Don’t panic, our mission is only over when we lose ourselves to panic and fear. Right now we all have more than enough work to do. We won’t be able to close in on the second objective until the AI is back online, but we are close enough to do our work on the first. I suggest that is what we do while we wait for the AI to fix itself.”
“I suppose it is.”
The men left the room and the hologram switched to the next recording.
“Year 631, Day 15”
The same three men had gathered in the room again. But where they had looked energetic and strong before they now looked haggard and weak. Frail.
“You need to accept that it won’t happen. We have been waiting for four years now. The AI won’t come back online.”
“You can’t know that for sure.”
“No, but we can guess! Hell, even the energy signature of the AI is dropping, it is dying, if it isn’t already death. And you need to accept that. And accept that the mission is over. That we,” The man gestured to all of them. “Are over. Our delay is already upwards of eight years. If we even arrive at the colony, people will find out why they arrived so late.”
“No, they won’t because we will clean up after ourselves and they won’t find anything in the logs.”
“You are crazy, insane…” it was the first time the third man spoke up. “You don’t realise how many logs we have generated over the past few years do you? We can’t locate them all and even if we did, we can’t remove them all. There is a reason they use AI’s for forensics now. What would take us years to find and remove those AI’s can find in a matter of hours.”
The first man looked weakly, leaning against the wall behind him. “I… but… it can’t be over… we have spent too much time and effort on this… our lives even..”
The second one squeezed his shoulder. “We know. But it is what it is. We have done much more work than we were supposed to on objective one, we won’t ever reach objective two. So right now we need to focus on closing it all down and removing the evidence. Whatever they may find, they can’t find out why we stopped the ship here or what we did here. We might even need to look into rigging the ship to self-destruct as a last resort.”
“But… all of our work… we won’t have anything left. No legacy, just… nothing.”
“We knew the dangers beforehand. What we did here is more important than us, than this ship. Even more important than humanity. We can’t be thinking about our legacy right now. We need to think about the future, abou-”
The man was interrupted by a loud noise and the ship was seemingly shaking. The men fell and tried to get a hold as the rumbling continued. Once it was done an alarm started blaring and a red hue pulsated through the room.
“What was that?” The first asked.
“I.. I don’t know… but we need to go and check it out right now!”
And with that, they hurriedly left the room and the recording ended.
“Year 631, Day 18”
Only two of the men were in the room now. The first and second, the third was missing.
“We need to handle this situation ASAP. We can’t afford to lose time.”
“I know, I know…”
“You need to make that clear to Stevens. You know he won’t listen to me, but he might listen to you.”
“Listen to me! If we handle this wrong, all of this was in vain. All of Humanity is on the line here. This isn’t a little science project anymore. This is dangerous and real. Very real. You need to make it clear to Stevens we don’t have time to research this. To analyse this. We need to abort, destroy and clean up. Right. Now.”
“I know.. I’ll talk to him tonight okay. Just… give me some time. You know how he is. And if I’m being honest… I’m excited about this all too. I mean, we are on the edge of the future here, doing seeing things nobody has seen before. It is what we all dreamed about right?”
“Yes, but we can’t risk it. This is nothing like what we expected it to be. We need to abort. You have seen what it did already. Who knows what our meddling will cause. Our mission was to analyse objective one. We did, and we classified it. Now we need to take care of it. Our orders are clear when it comes to objectives that are a possible threat to humanity.”
“Year 631, Day 19”
There were two men in the room now, but this time it was the second one and Stevens. The second one seemed a bit shaken. Shivering as he spoke.
“What have we done Stevens?”
“What we had to do. For science. For progress. For what we always have stood for.”
“Yes but… What we did was wrong Stevens. Maybe we listened to the wrong morals and ethics we had. What we did to Hanson was… diabolic.”
“Diabolic? Never knew you believed in demons Krev.”
“I don’t, but what we did… we could just as well be demons. You know we murdered him don’t you?”
“We did not murder him, we only forced him to take part in an experiment-”
Krev cut Stevens off. “No, technically we did that. practically? We both know he won’t survive that. We both know what will happen. Will it help us to understand all of this? Yes, I believe it will give us valuable research. But that doesn’t change anything about the fact that we murdered him. We are murderers now Stevens.”
“Well, I’m okay with that. We were already criminals if they ever found out what we did. Government issued or not. I gladly add murder to that list if it can get me closer to learning about the truth of this.”
“We have gone mad..”
The men left the room again.
“Year 631, Day 26”
Krev was alone in the room, walking in circles, speaking to himself.
“Oh god, oh fuck. Oh sweet baby Jesus, Maria mother of god. What have we done? What have we fucking done..”
Stevens walked in the room as well.
“What is your issue?”
“What? What is my… issue? Have you fucking seen Hanson? Have you seen what we have done?”
“We did not do that. It did that. And I have seen Hanson. It is quite interesting don’t you agree? Imagine the use of this. Imagine what we could do with this!”
“Do with it? What are you talking about! That is death! Sorrow, pain, madness! What possible use could we have for that!”
“You know how perverse and vile humankind is. You know we’ll find a use for it.”
“For god’s sake man! You have gone mad! Look at us. Look at what we have done to our colleague, to our friend!”
“Not for God. For science. And we have only done what we always have promised each other to do. Seek out the truth, no matter the cost.”
Stevens left Krev alone, who slid to the floor, sobbing.
“Year 631, Day 38”
The room was filled with people now. Krev was in the centre of them. Sam could count eight or ten others, all wearing the familiar deep sleep costume. They must have been just woken up. Some of them were even changing their suit for a more suitable one. Like the one Sam was wearing right now.
“Okay, everybody knows our situation. We fucked up, but we need to put things straight now. If we ever want to get out of this alive, or be able to actually spend our lives one day. We need to act now.”
The group seemed to hesitantly murmur, agreeing with Krev.
And then Stevens walked in.
“What the fuck have you done Krev?” He demanded loudly.
“I have done what I should have done when you asked me to turn on Hanson. I have woken up the backup crew. We are putting a stop to this. I briefed them. They know what we have done and they agree that this is no longer our mission. We are ending this.”
“Like hell you are! This is all our mission. This is more than we expected, or even hoped for. But that changes nothing!”
“Have you seen Hanson? Can you really say that changes nothing? You have gone mad. And we are stopping this!”
“Sad.” Stevens seemed to be genuinely sad as he said that. But then he pulled a gun from his hip and started shooting it. Bright orange and yellow bolts of plasma flew through the room, at the small crowd. The two closest to Stevens fell screaming to the floor, their chests blown open. Burning and charred flesh on display.
The others quickly reached for their own guns if they had any or ducked away if they did not. A small, short gunfight broke out. Stevens was able to kill two more and then was hit in his arm. While shooting he retreated from the room. The others kept firing at him but didn’t leave the room. After a while they looked after the wounded, trying to save them.
And then the recording ended.