Flies – Short Fiction
Captain Mathis stared out the window at the vast emptiness of space. It matched his thoughts lately – expansive and empty at the same time. The ship’s doctor called it infinity sickness. Some of the crew suffered from it. Only routine kept them sane.
The orders came in three months prior. The Achilles was to explore an uncharted sector of Ramish-3. Mathis figured it was still uncharted for a reason. They hadn’t seen a single star or planet since they arrived. Each night when he sent in his report to the Federation, he asked to be reassigned, but received the same message: Stay the course.
What course? The Achilles was adrift in space. With no points of origin, no one even knew for sure if they were still in Ramish-3.
“Captain! There’s a blip on the sensor screen.”
Mathis rushed to the control panel. Sure enough, there was a small blip on the screen. It was so small though that it could just be an asteroid.
“Put it up on the viewer, Andrews.”
Lieutenant Andrews executed the command. Seconds later, the wide-screen viewer switched on, but showed only darkness. The blip on the sensor grew in size, but they still could see nothing on the screen.
“Maybe it’s cloaked, sir.”
“Switch on the de-cloaking device.”
The lieutenant switched on the device. Suddenly the whole expanse around them lit up. Hundreds of ships came into view, but none of them registered on the sensor.
The original object continued to grow in size until it finally appeared on the viewer. A large black circular object.
“We’ve been hailed, Captain,” Lieutenant Joon reported.
“No, Captain. Just a message.”
The same message repeated over and over again. “Hello fly. This is spider. Welcome to my web.”
After a few moments, a faint signal came through from one of the other ships. An SOS in Morse code. “Stuck here for three years. Unable to move. Kept alive by the spider. Leave if you can.”
“Get us out of here! Full warp speed!” Mathis yelled.
Lieutenant Andrews executed the command to no avail. They only had enough power for life support. Mathis tried to send a report to the Federation, but it failed to transmit. Had they been lied to? Had the Federation deliberately not told them that others had been sent to this sector?
“Joon, send back a coded message. Say, ‘Have you heard from the other ships? Is there no means of escape?'”
Joon sent the message in Morse code. They waited. Finally, another SOS came through. “All ships disabled. Only life support. The Toreador has been here the longest. Ten years.”
After a series of codes back and forth, Mathis learned that the black circular object was a space station of some kind. The hundreds of ships were manned by humans and aliens. While they were able to communicate with the other human ships, no one had been able to communicate with the alien ships. Every so often a member aboard a ship would disappear for a few hours and then reappear with no memory of what happened. Mysterious bruises appeared on them, but not other signs of experimentation were visible. Apparently the black space station was doing something to the crews, they just didn’t know what. And there they were, trapped with no means to send signals out into space. No way to warn others headed that way. Eventually, the de-cloaking system failed and they were shrouded in darkness once more. Infinity sickness took hold of every man and woman aboard the ship. Only their routines kept them sane.
A few days after their capture, Richfield, the Engineer, came to see Captain Mathis.
“I have an idea, sir.”
“Really?” This was what Mathis had hoped for.
“Well, I don’t know if it will work…”
“Out with it.”
“Well, sir. If we are flies trapped in a web, then we are all connected in some way, right?”
“Sounds reasonable to me.”
“If all of us rerouted our life support power to the engines and tried to pull away at the same time, then perhaps the connection to the space station will snap.”
“How long could we survive without life support?”
“Not long, sir. We’d have enough oxygen to stay alert for about ten to fifteen minutes. After twenty minutes, we’d be brain-dead.”
Mathis rubbed his chin. “We still have one major obstacle. How do we communicate with the alien ships?”
“Morse code for aliens, sir.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Well, I figure we’ve been sending Morse code that corresponds with our language. What if we send it in alien languages? We know of two hundred separate languages. It would take a few days to send them all, but honestly, sir… what else do we have to do around here?”
Mathis patted Richfield on the back. “Good thinking, old man. Do it!”
For days, the crew sent out messages to the alien ships. They were just about to lose hope, but on the fourth day messages started coming back. Some of the aliens had been communicating back and forth among themselves and had come up with a similar idea for escape. All of the ships agreed to make the attempt, even if meant some of them wouldn’t survive. What good were dead flies to that spider anyway?
They worked out a time for all of the ships to begin their reroutes and the operation proceeded. Each ship began to pull away. Mathis ordered his crew to buckle-up, to be as perfectly still as possible and to breathe slowly. The Achilles began its course. The engines roared, lurched, pulled and tugged. The ship swayed and jerked. Crew members bounced around in their seats, but maintained their slow breathing. Five minutes passed, then ten. When the fifteen-minute mark elapsed, Mathis began to lose hope. They didn’t have much power left and no life support. He looked around at his crew. Everyone looked as though they were at the brink of death. Even he felt light-headed.
Suddenly, the ship jolted. The power switched on, as did the life support. The de-cloaking system came back on and Mathis watched as hundreds of ships pulled away from view. And in the distance was a large explosion. The spider was gone and the flies were free.
©2016 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved.
Each day in May, I will be participating in the StoryADay in May. Here is the prompt for May 24th (I am late due to illness):
Via Julie – Write a story focusing on genre expectations
(note: for this one, I wrote in my favorite genre and tried to use as many cliched situations as I could.. impossible odds, a last minute solution that shouldn’t have worked, and of course, a victorious ending)