[Written on a flight to Glasgow last weekend and heavily (almost too much so?) inspired by recent Hollywood hit Passengers (would recommend, but not ahead of Arrival), and dedicated to my new friend Aisling who I finally met properly. Enjoy!]
It was the distress signal that alerted them to the ship, but no one answered any of their attempts to contact it.
A dark mass floating through dark space, engines burned out and cold.
They checked the ship code – nothing initially, then the Archivist chimed in that it was a New Dawn class – RIS Foresight – destined for a colony planet in a neighbouring solar system.
They pulled alongside. The Foresight’s docking bay was an antiquated design so they sent a pod rather than connecting the ships’ bays directly. Lieutenants Burgess and McNeill went with two squaddies, Shaw and Lindsay, though they expected a lifeless vessel to greet them.
Far from it. From the first glimpse of tendrils wound around the bay doors, the Foresight teemed with life. Trees and vines twisted through the corridors, giving the air a rich, lush feel – once their monitors had told them it was safe to breathe, of course.
In the main atrium, mosses covered the walls and birdsong filled the air.
Burgess laughed, Shaw wept.
They comm’d in to report, barely able to keep their voices level.
“There’s life everywhere!” McNeill reported in a giddy voice.
Command asked for visuals and Lindsay beamed some back from his suitcam. There were cheers aboard the ship. They moved through the atrium, following signs for cabins.
They quickly wished they hadn’t.
After forcing open the door to A01, it was clear the exuberant life hadn’t reached this far. Passenger Jaq Hughes lay in his pod, preservation mechanics long since failed, his skin pale and lifeless.
Burgess turned to McNeill, aware her colleague had lost his brother on a colonial mission last year. His face was stoic but Burgess could see his hands trembling.
They found the control room and Lindsay managed to reboot the system with a power pack. Cortana informed them that 700 passengers, 40 crew and 80 assorted animals had been on board. Analytics suggested a solar flare had knocked out the whole array of starboard engines, leaving the Foresight unable to continue or safely attempt an autopilot landing.
As for why the crew hadn’t been revived for a manual landing, there was no indication.
Burgess made sure to lead them out via the atrium once more, but even the sound of birdsong could not lift the faces of her team.