Chapter One

1
We went forward, falling through the darkness, spiraling downward for eons. There was no sound, no utterance to be heard. There was only what I thought to be myself and what I had come to know as the lonely void of space around the Anomaly. Suddenly, my insides lurched upward as an incredibly bright, white beam of light streaked towards us and over the hull. The light streamed in waves blurring everything. The horizon bent downward from the right and left, and formed a downward arc in front of the ship, ripples of space slid across the hull. I remember a metal taste in my mouth, that my head felt heavy and compressed, and that my lungs were tight and my heart was racing at a tremendous speed.

We were inside and it was breathtaking. White clouds swirled around in every direction in constant turmoil. In the center an orange sphere spun and rotated with energetic clouds. The top of the sphere turned and turned as we rushed towards it. All of the light and clouds converged right in front of us and it was so blindingly bright. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t blink and I was transfixed in time.

The visor on my helmet clicked over to shield my eyes as everything went white. I knew it was milliseconds, but it felt like an eternity of nothingness, like death itself.

Moments later, we emerged from the Anomaly—a tiny metal spec amidst a baleful enormity. The cabin sprung to life as the instrumentation began flashing and beeping. Instinctively, I performed my navigational duties as flawlessly as I had been trained and brought the ship’s thrusters to a slow burn.

“Forward thrusters to half, proceed with caution,” barked the Lieutenant.

I made the adjustments and guided the vessel towards the new planet, preparing to enter its atmosphere.

“Full diagnostics report Thompson!” snapped Captain Roberts. As the senior officer, Roberts had been assigned to lead this expedition. The crew wasn’t sure if it was because of misconduct or whether he had just been looking for an excuse to leave the Command Station. Roberts was a short and burly, balding man with fierce blue eyes and a short temper, he always had purple rings around his sunken eye sockets as if he never slept. Thompson was looking into those eyes with a priceless, shocked expression.

“Weapons, operations, life support, and emergency systems fully functional Captain,” said a hesitant Thompson.

“Very well, Lieutenant, see that the package is secure before we commence landing procedures.”

“Aye Captain,” Stacy Winters replied. She was the ship’s fetching, young Lieutenant and this was probably her first real expedition from the Station since she had been assigned there two years ago.

I glanced across at her from my seat as she deftly moved her fingertips around the display screen in her lap. Her short red hair was perfectly trimmed up to the bottom of her chin and the soft blue glow from the screen lit up her face with a marvelous hue. I watched her fingers for a second and saw her bite her lip and focus intently on something…oh shi—

I snapped my eyes back to my monitor and could feel the familiar ache of the planet’s gravitational pull. For once, I was thankful to be wearing a COMMS visor.

The planet always seems so bright and green and blue. I miss its clouds and oceans and the idea of so many species here co-existing. Earth really was a remarkable place once.

“Star date?” questioned the Captain.

“Star Date Two-Thousand Twelve Captain,” replied a calm Winters. “Twenty-first of December, coordinates are for the Northern hemisphere—America sir.”

The Captain shifted uneasily in his chair at her words then barked, “Great. Take us in for landing Private.”

“Approaching landing coordinates in thirty seconds.” I hate that he calls me by my rank, it’s so unprofessional. Worst part is the crew doesn’t seem to notice.

“Landing in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…” I continued, spinning my hands, fingers and wrists around methodically as the ship’s landing gear connected with the ground. The ship lurched and settled in moments.

“Commencing docking sequences,” I droned.

“Confirmed,” smirked the Lieutenant. Was she smirking at me just then? I can’t see her right now with this damn helmet on but I swear she just smirked at me.

The ship was alive, as was the crew. The cabin was pressurizing, the instrumentation was gathering data, the crew was affixing their gear, and then it happened…

It was loud and fast and shrieking, metal against metal. There was fire and electricity and a buzzing and a spinning. The ship had been attacked, but by what?

“GET OUT THERE and see what the hell just HIT my ship!” yelled the Captain, pointing at the Lieutenant and her team. I was aware of a cold wetness on my neck, I wiped at it instinctively: blood. Couldn’t be my blood, I felt fine? I looked around and locked eyes with Roberts as he approached me. His face was angry and his mouth was moving as if he was yelling at someone…yelling at me?

He snatched off my visor and a horrible din filled my head, a ringing of bells. The world was spinning again and I felt Roberts’ hands on my shoulders and neck. Black, floating dots swam before my eyes. I checked my neck again and followed the wetness up to my ears—they were bleeding. The Captain snatched me upright in my chair and locked eyes with me and mouthed the word, breathe. I nodded and began to breathe slow, concentrated breaths. I knew that I was in shock, that I had almost passed out and that whatever had crashed into the ship had caused my helmet to explode both my eardrums. I was deaf. The world would never be the same for me.

Even during that moment, during that realization, what was causing me distress wasn’t that I would never hear again. I was in shock because I had no way to help Winters, no way to know what was going on outside the ship or what had attacked the ship.

I hastily cleared away my instrumentation and monitor and unfastened myself from my seat and spun it to the side to stand. I was two steps from the cabin exit when I could feel the weight of my head bearing down on me, squeezing and clenching inward. I gasped and the black stars appeared again before my eyes. There she was, walking back towards the cabin, her team behind her. I saw her face, she moved those pink lips to say something, but I couldn’t hear anything. I unconsciously fell towards the floor.

She caught me, I think.