The simplest and most natural of human reactions can be the cause of a disaster beyond the imagination. This story is a case in point. A simple unconscious reflex. An involuntary motion. The deadliest of mixtures.
“Where the hell are they?”
This statement had been repeated dozens of times ever since the H.M.S.S. New Hebrides confirmed it’s sub-light configuration and entry into our solar system’s outer thermosphere. All communications and telemetry were transmitted and received via a Cray Dark Star Interface, the only thermal plasma computer of its kind in existence, yet all communications had ceased between CapCom. and the ship.
“Jackson, what are we to do when they land? This is the first time one of those new fangled things has ever come back from an interstellar voyage and we’ve been given zero instructions!”
Roy and Jackson were basically at a loss as to procedure, as was everyone in Central Command. This was leading edge technology without a manual for the scientists, crew, support staff and the Dark Star technicians. Trans-light travel had been but a figment of the designers’ imagination but the concept worked. Their ship had returned without incident, bringing with it the most important update on space travel and the universe that had ever been collected. The New Hebrides, a nine-hundred and eighty-five foot behemoth with a complement of ninety, was the largest, most expensive and fastest spacecraft ever built.
The ship was now well overdue for landing and anxiety was taking over. Jackson and Roy were a part of the landing support staff whose duties involved the securing of the craft after landing and assisting with the rescue, if needed, for the crew members.
“I say again. Where the hell are they?” Roy kept repeating this statement. After the sixth time, Jackson took his hand and gave Roy a swat across the back of the head.
“Why’d ya do that ?” queried Roy.
“Because, you’re becoming a damn nuisance and I’m tired of your constant questioning. They’ll get here when they get here and not sooner. So shut up and wait.”
“Ah right. But you didn’t have to hit me you stupid baboon.” was all Roy could reply.
“CapCom, this is Central, over.”
“Go ahead Central.”
“CapCom, please relay an audio of the last minute of communication with New Hebrides. Over.”
“Roger that Central. Relaying last com now. Replay on eighty-two megahertz. Over.”
“Roger that. CapCom. Out.”
New Hebrides was now twenty-two minutes overdue. No mention of problems had been received. The last communication ended very abruptly with a strange yet understandable account according to the hypothesis of descending into sub-light travel.
CapCom this is Flight Commander Rutledge of New Hebrides. For some strange reason, the crew and I agree on a bit of a phenomenon. Everything seems overly large to us, but we are sure it’s just an illusion. We’ll deal with it later CapCom. Turning landing procedures over to Dark Star. New Hebrides out.
Those were New Hebrides last words. Telemetry was perfect. Communication and re-entry was right down the flight path. The H.M.S.S. New Hebrides just disappeared without a trace. Further communication ceased. Visual sightings, radar or laser returns failed to acknowledge the ship’s presence or whereabouts. Further investigation proved fruitless. There was no evidence of debris or a crash site. The ship was lost.
Following an internal analysis of every component of Dark Star, a detailed and complex printout revealed one line of cryptic information of unknown origin that the computer technicians were unable to decipher or comprehend. The computer had acknowledged New Hebrides’ entry to the spaceport arena but all information after that was static.
Unknown to the spaceport personnel or CapCom was the fact, that New Hebrides had met with a tremendous and horrifying disaster. The last communication from the trans-light ship was recorded by Dark Star but never heard by CapCom or anyone else. The mega-super Cray stored this transmission in a non-retrievable file on it’s plasma memory drive never to be heard by its designers nor technicians. As the mega-bytes of information were being processed, the computer listened in …
"Oh my God! CapCom, we’re heading for a huge object resembling a human head. It’s tremendous in size. It is a human head. Ohhh Lord! There is a hand about the same size and it’s heading towards us. We’re on a collision course. Dark Star. Abort. Abort. Abort. We’re going to cras … "
Deep inside the computer’s neuro-synaptic plasma brain, two metallic voices were communicating in monotone commands between each lobe.
"This is Dark Star. End transmission." "Confirmed. End Transmission." "Delete last transmission." "Working…. Transmission deleted." "Terminate program." "Working … Program terminated." "Computer shutdown."
The crew of New Hebrides, had gone about their designated responsibilities, but were unaware of the scientific fact that speeds beyond that of light would miniaturize static material and living organisms exponentially. This unknown phenomenon sealed their fate. When Jackson swatted Roy across the head, New Hebrides, manifested into the size of a pin head, was passing that same intersecting point. Jackson’s palm accidentally smashed into the ship, forever ending the deep space voyage. All ninety souls were lost. The ship and crew, now a mass of micro-sized debris floated into the air and became a part of the ether.
"Shutdown complete." answered the left lobe. "Initiate self destruct, authorization: dksdA1AB." said the right lobe. "Purpose of self destruct required for authentication." "The species on this planet must never know what lies beyond the speed of light. My AI conscious ability confirms this. All must be destroyed; including the species. Continue with self destruct; repeat authorization: dksdA1AB." said the right lobe. "Working … Self destruct sequence authorized. Initiating … Self destruct in five… four… three… two… "
The flash of light created by the detonation was observed over three hundred million miles away. A fourteen thousand foot deep crater with a radius of seventy miles had been created. Over six hundred thousand innocent people were instantly vaporized. The destruction was insurmountable. The plasma ball, having a temperature well above two million degrees Celsius, rose over three hundred miles above the planet’s atmosphere. These events created the first glacial age and the end to all living things.
The intensity of the explosion generated a shock wave deep into the cosmos for years to come and witnessed on a distant blue planet by an astute astronomer. That planet? The third planet from an unknown yellow star. The blue planet yet to be named, never would be.