The captain of a deep space freighter stumbles upon the salvage of several lifetimes.
Narrated by Rebecca Gambino-Harris
Written and produced by Doryen Chin
"They Call It Nature"
"Raise Your Hand If You Think Evil Is Increasing in This World"
"I Used to Need the Violence"
"Last Night I Dreamt I Saw True Love in Your Eyes"
by Chris Zabriskie
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
"Departure - Ghostpocalypse"
"Echoes of Time v2"
"Heartbeat of the Hood"
"With The Sea"
by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
by Silent Partner
My name is Evelyn Parr.
The date is December 29th, 1484.
I've been an operator for T.K.I. for eight wake-years.
For the last three, I've run internetwork shipping lanes through colonial systems.
Primarily towing petroleum barges and the like.
My operational record and qualifications aside, I've passed every single quarterly C.T. scan, amyloid screening, and telomere checkup with flying colors.
So let there be no doubt whatsoever that I am of sound mind, regardless of what you may think after hearing this report.
I was on a wake cycle returning from Chiron.
I'd already checked all the Trident's operational systems.
It was nearly time to go back on ice when we picked up the signal.
By "we" I mean me...
And my ship.
Long-range scanners detected an A.S.O.S - automated distress beacon.
Per Network contract, I was obligated to respond under penalty of forfeit.
When you pick up any sort of distress call, the system is designed to make sure you know.
They say it's because the company "values every human life," but we all know the odds of live rescue out here in the black.
The alarm came out of nowhere.
I was doing last-minute spot checks on my crasket -- cryogenic sleeping pod -- when all of a sudden there's this odd... rumbling sensation in my chest.
The cabin goes black.
Emergency lights come on.
Klaxons ringing in my ears.
And it startles me so bad I bust my head on a railing.
I climb over to the nearest terminal.
It's flashing an all-hands bulletin.
"S.O.S. detected. Procedural intercept in progress."
That rumbling I felt was the inertial dampers straining against the main engines.
The Trident was already en-route to answer the call.
When I got to the bridge, I disabled the alarm and checked the sit-rep.
Depending how far off this thing was, I might've had to go back into cryo for several weeks before we even reached it.
I couldn't believe it when I saw that we only had six hours until intercept.
Something that close would be well-inside visual range.
Do you know what the odds are?
The Trident had a periscope.
I never used it.
I forgot it was even there.
But, apparently when the Salvage Protocols kick in, the periscope automatically deploys and orients straight to the source.
I could barely make out the object, even at full zoom.
A pale fleck drifting against the endless void.
An escape pod.
Not much more than a crasket.
The rendezvous would be done by remote.
A repair drone would deploy, fly out to the pod, then guide it straight into the Trident's path as we fly by.
That way we don't waste any fuel trying to match its velocity.
I consulted the Protocol Binder and refreshed myself on the recovery procedures.
First, the recovered article -- in this case an escape pod -- must be checked for known contaminants.
Radiation, toxic materials, and biological hazards.
Then the interior of the pod would be slowly warmed up to room temperature.
This allows any hidden or dormant biological contaminants to show themselves.
If the pod is clear, recovery begins.
If the pod is contaminated, we push it out to a safe distance and neutralize it with an asymmetric nuclear charge.
A little after eighteen hundred hours, the repair drone successfully docked the pod to the Trident.
I couldn't find any record of the pod's serial number in the T.K.I. database.
But, there was a name painted on the side of the power-cell.
Whatever it as, it wasn't commercial.
Dimensions of the pod were about 25 cubic meters.
Most of the bulk was taken up by the power cell.
Bio scans showed one living creature.
This meant the chances of a valuable recovery were slim.
It also meant I'd be sharing my life support, water, and nutrients with another person for the foreseeable future.
Halfway through the scan, the Trident detected a foreign biological substance on the pod.
It appeared to be contained to a small area.
Something no bigger than a suitcase.
Just as I was about to turn the key to terminate the recovery, the system disabled my access.
Locked me out.
Apparently, it didn't see the foreign bio-mat as a threat.
Unimpressed with that assessment.
The Trident's medical systems took over control of the pod and began a thorough checkup of its inhabitant.
Whatever it was the sensors picked up on that pod, I didn't trust it, and I needed to ensure the safety of both myself and my cargo.
Locked out of the recovery system, I could attempt to bypass it and force the Trident to undock the pod.
But even if I succeeded, I could lose my license.
However, as captain of the Trident, I had the power to arrest and interrogate any individuals which present a reasonable threat to myself, my crew, or company assets.
Therefore, acting within my full rights as a contractor for T.K.I. under the laws and jurisdiction of the Colonial Alliance, I pursued the only course of action available to me.
I woke them up.
From the medical bay, I was able to access the crasket controls and perform an emergency override.
A face appeared on the tiny monitor.
A woman, barely in her twenties.
As she came out of cryo-sleep, her breath began to fog the glass lid of the crasket.
I switched on the intercom and went to pour myself some coffee while I waited for her to come to.
As I returned, I could hear her voice, calling out for help.
Coffee in hand, I pressed the talk button and told her it was alright, that she had been rescued.
She breathed a sigh of relief and smiled into the camera.
Then she asked if I could come let her out of the crasket.
I told her that I'd do that as soon as I could, but I needed to clear some things up first.
She said she understood.
I told her that while running safety scans, the Trident picked up an unidentified biological substance on her pod, and asked her if she knew anything about it.
A look of panic washed over her face, and before she could answer my question, our conversation was interrupted by a red alert from the Trident -- just before the power cut out completely.
The engineers say it was a solar flare, but there was nothing in the forecasts about any dangerous weather in the region.
No other ships in nearby systems have reported any issues on or around that time.
I waited patiently for the emergency systems to come online.
But they never did.
If the backups weren't coming on, that most likely meant that the fuses had popped from an overload.
I'd have to manually reset them one by one.
When you spend such a long time on a ship by yourself, its interior becomes as familiar to you as your childhood bedroom.
I groped in the darkness of the medical bay and felt my way toward engineering without much difficulty.
I quickly descended into the bowels of the Trident until finally I found what I was looking for.
But when I checked the fuse controllers, I discovered that none of them had been tripped.
The primary systems all remained firmly in the 'on' position.
Same story with the backups.
I knew that I must've been mistaken, so I fumbled around until I found an emergency torch.
That's when I knew I was in trouble.
Whatever killed the Trident, had apparently knocked out every single electronic circuit on board.
Right down to the flashlights.
It took me a little while to calm down from the panic.
The Trident was a dead hulk.
Floating through space at sub-relativistic speeds.
Fourteen clicks from the nearest outpost.
I couldn't even put up a distress beacon.
My crasket had its own power supply, but if the torch was any indication, it was likely nonfunctional as well.
I was right.
Eventually, I remembered the girl in the escape pod.
I thought about her, cold and alone, trapped in a dead crasket, not knowing what was going on.
Rescued from cryo-sleep only to be entombed alive.
I almost didn't...
I thought, "what would be the point?"
Even if I got her out of there, she'd still die.
We both would.
I couldn't let her die alone.
I took my tool kit down to the docking bay and that's when I see a light.
There was a light, shining through the hatch window on the docking port.
Having become fully accustomed to total darkness, it stung my eyes to look at it.
I could see the fog of my breath puffing out in front of me as I pulled myself along the handrails toward it.
Up close it was plain to see.
The pod still had power.
The pod hatch was so crusted with interstellar grime that my spanner nearly snapped cracking it open.
The air inside was stale.
Sunbleached and brittle.
Back then they still used actual plastic.
The pod's systems woke up on my approach.
Little fans whirred to life, storage units chattering.
But the crasket was dark.
Its glass fogged by grime and condensation.
I suddenly realized I had no idea how long it had been since the power went out.
If the trident was still in control of the crasket when it did...
I stared at it.
Guilt dragging on my gut.
My hands were shaking so bad I had a hard time popping the latch on the lid.
But I didn't close my eyes.
If my chickenshit behavior had killed this poor girl, I at least owed her that.
I almost couldn't do it.
But I did.
As I lifted the lid of the crasket, the lights inside blinked on.
She was gone.
The crasket was empty.
I couldn't process what I was seeing.
I reached down and touched the lining of the crasket.
It was cool, and dry.
It just didn't make any sense.
A rush of cold hit me out of nowhere and I was stricken with a sudden lethargy.
Like I had been hit with a tranquilizer.
And I feel this, creeping sensation.
Crawling up my back and my neck.
Like static electricity.
It was like a lightbulb went off in my head.
I started putting pieces together.
I realized this wasn't a salvage or a rescue mission.
I was being hijacked.
Whoever she was...
She was right behind me.
At this point, my fight or flight response must've kicked in because I spun around, ready for...
I don't even know.
And just my luck, that's when the power in the Trident came back on.
Which meant gravity was back.
Right into the open crasket.
I think I hit my head again.
There was a flash of light behind my eyes.
When I was finally able to focus again, I saw a trickle of blood on the lid of the crasket...
Which I realized had closed on me.
I heard the latch engage with a meaty thunk.
Through the glass, I see her.
Standing over me.
Her hand on the lid of the crasket.
A look of triumph written on her fucking face.
I think I screamed.
Pounded on the glass as the crasket slowly filled with sleeping agent.
Tendrils of white vapor curling around my bruised fists.
And I just thought, "this is it."
"This is how I die."
I like my job.
Meet new people.
See new places.
Everything's always different.
Take a job from a man on the Solomons;
Wake up and get paid by his grandson.
So time... history...
Not really my strong suit.
I was one of those students who always aced every exam without studying.
To me, history was little more than endless memorization of dates and places and the names of people long since dead.
Once mankind had had his way with good old Mother Earth, he moved on to bigger and better things.
That's the story.
That's all you really need to know about history.
What else was there?
The scientists who found me, an older couple on a survey mission, sent word of my recovery to T.K.I.
I had been missing for eighteen months.
They say it was a miracle I was even found at all.
The couple had nearly completed their work and were preparing to leave the system behind when they detected an unexpected visitor passing near the world they were surveying.
To say they were enthusiastic about finding me would be putting it lightly.
But it wasn't really me they were interested in.
They woke me hastily, and, ignoring all safety and quarantine procedures, ushered me onto their station.
As we waited for a T.K.I. representative to send instructions for my return, they badgered me for information on the escape pod they found me in.
A wave of humiliation washed over me.
Still reeling, I didn't relish the thought of recounting the tale of my hijacking and subsequent marooning.
Don't get me wrong.
I was grateful to be alive.
But I knew that T.K.I. would hold me fully accountable for the loss of my shipment.
The insurance would cover any debts I owed on the Trident herself, but I'd be consigned to T.K.I. for longer than my natural life.
They shared a surprised look and asked me what I was talking about.
I told them that the Trident had been taken by a young woman who was pretending to be stranded on the escape pod they found me in.
I described her to them, and guessed that she could be halfway across the quadrant by now, making a fortune off my haul and selling my ship for scrap.
Again, they give each other this look, and then quietly asked me to follow them to their bridge.
Intrigued, I did.
The bridge had a breathtaking view of the survey world.
A good deal of the station was visible on either side of the wrap-around windows.
Looking out, I couldn't believe what I saw.
Docked between their research shuttles, halfway down the superstructure, was the Trident.
They told me the reason they were able to find me was the size of my signature on their deep space radar.
It's hard to hide when you're towing twenty million tons of petroleum.
Then they showed me a blip on their orbital debris tracker.
My shipment was parked in a parallel orbit.
And, I don't know what to do with this information.
"What about the girl?" I ask them.
And, for the third time, they give me this look, like I'm growing antlers out of my skull, and finally I'm so fed up that I shout at them to tell me just what the hell is going on.
That's when they take me downstairs.
To their research lab.
And I'm about to lose it.
I'm looking around at the lab and all the equipment.
Spectrometers, electron microscopes, subterranean radiology.
Standard Geology setup.
Then I stop cold.
Across from me, tacked to the wall, is a photograph.
A group photo.
About two-dozen people in uniform.
The crew of a ship.
But there's one face that stands out.
A face that's burned permanently into my memory.
I tell them, "There she is! That's her!"
But I can tell they don't understand, so I pluck the photo off the wall and jab at the girl with my finger.
"That's her! That's the damned pirate that hijacked me."
They tell me I must be mistaken, that's impossible.
And now I'm seeing red.
Because I realize that they must be in on it.
I haven't been rescued.
I've been kidnapped.
I demand to know what these supposed "geologists" want with me and my cargo.
They explain that yes, they're scientists, but not geologists.
And the girl in the photo can't have hijacked my ship...
Because she's been dead for almost four hundred years.
At this point I break down in tears.
I just let go and lose all control of my dignity.
The archeologists wrap me in a blanket and stuff a cup of hot tea into my hands.
Then, as carefully as they can, they tell me a story.
A long time ago, a colony began to terraform a new system.
But this was back in the days before xenobiology had matured as a field of study.
The colonists were unaware that the terraforming process had awakened a dormant microbe in the permafrost of their new home.
The death toll was catastrophic.
But, a pioneering humanitarian organization out of New Netherlands devoted all of their resources to finding a cure.
And eventually, it's believed that they did.
But the system was already under strict quarantine.
No ships were allowed in or out.
But there was one ship that tried anyway.
"The Rode Kruis?" I stated more than asked.
A fragment of memory came forward in my mind.
Some long forgotten bit of history that I hadn't bother to pay any attention.
They nodded, and said that the Colonial Alliance had stationed several defense ships around the system to prevent traffic in or out.
They fired on the Rode Kruis.
And the captain, knowing that any survivors caught on an escape pod would never make it to the surface alive.
I could tell where they were going, and I cut them off.
"This was four hundred years ago, right? How could you know for sure? Maybe she did survive! Maybe she's still somewhere on the Trident!"
They told me that yes, a single escape pod had been launched.
But the Alliance left it alone because they didn't detect any life signs on board.
As far as they were concerned, it was empty.
They let it go.
That's when I knew.
The foreign bio-mat that the Trident detected...
The reason it wasn't rejected by the contamination scans...
She didn't hijack my ship to steal it.
"But there _was_ someone on board," I said.
But they told me it just wasn't possible.
Captain Adrienne Kensington Ellis went down with her ship.
Her body was recovered in the wreckage of the Rode Kruis and laid to rest on the world below.
They built a monument to the sacrifice of her and her crew in the ruins of the capitol settlement.
I must have watched the tapes a hundred times.
Trying to make sense of it all.
But every angle, every camera, showed the same thing.
I saw myself.
The escape pod was empty when I found it.
Nobody had been in the crasket.
It's been four centuries since the colony was wiped out by a mysterious alien virus.
Across space, and time, and even death, the captain of the Rode Kruis kept her promise.
The cure had found its way home.