Story #3 - By: "Lord Reaper"

The outer rim, the deepest section of deep space, void where no being has ever held presence, had an intruder. A small dark hull sped on itís way, at near light speeds. The pilot, fully self aware, and in full control of the small craft, sat comfortably in the cockpit of his test ship.

After a 2 week mission, testing the revolutionary new ultra-small sub-light engines, he was confident that this technology was finally a reality. His mother-ship, the Callisto, a research vessel that had been testing over a half dozen new and powerful technologies, moved within range of his short range scanner. Twenty light-minutes away, and heading on a perpendicular course, it would take approximately 2 hours for him to reach home. The pilot accessed his cybernetic interface, noted his situation as a short log entry, checked the time, and accessed his craftís com. system to hail the Callisto, letting her know of his approch. Oddly, he received no response. The pilot dismissed this anomaly easily, the Callisto was constantly running tests, something may have gone wrong, and they had to take the com system off-line. Accessing his short range scan, he noticed that the structural integrity was in peak condition, so most possibilities of major damage were ruled out

Two hours latter, the Huge hull of the Callisto loomed into view. The pilot dropped back into maneuvering velocities, and piloted his small vessel around the contours of the Starcraft. He noticed that most of the windows were dark, which was odd, considering that it was 7:865gst, still within normal working hours. Realizing that the Callisto had still not raised him, he attempted to raise her. Still nothing.

The small vessel pulled around to face the main hanger. Finally a real problem presented itself. The hanger bay doors were shut. The pilot attempted to activate the doors from his ship, but to no avail, they were locked. Annoyed, but not dismayed, he pulled back away, and flew over to the secondary port. Closed or not, he would be able to latch on to the docking arm, and a gangway would extend allowing him safe passage from his cockpit to the Callisto. If the docking systems were off-line, then he would be in trouble.

Luck was with him, and no sooner had the familiar sound of a docking arm gripping his hull sounded, he saw the gangway swing out, and latch onto his canopy. The canopy slid open, and his seat raised, lifting him into the gangway.

All was dark and still. The air was stale, as if the recycling systems had been disabled for several days. The Pilot trekked slowly through the familiar passage, made unfamiliar by the darkness, and the debris strewn about the floor. He switched on his infra-red eyepiece, and scanned for signs of harmful radiation. His scans picked up trace amounts of radiation, more than there should be, but well within tolerable levels.

Suddenly, he heard a shriek. He spun around, trying to source the location of the cry. He was alone, the voice, somehow not human, must have come from a lower deck.

The Pilot continued on his way, to a small but fully enabled computer terminal. He attempted to access the Ships flight logs, but there were blocked. The computer was in shambles, the interface barely functional. There was only one thing to do now. He pulled the cable from the terminal compartment, and latched it onto the cybernetic port below his right ear.

He jacked into cyberspace. It had been two weeks, and it was good to be back into the vast complexity of the Callistoís data-net, rather than the cramped simplicity of the test vehicles computer. He propelled himself through the data stream looking for signs of corruption, which he disturbingly found in abundance. He continued to the first node, the experiment logs. The data was heavily corrupted, but there was evidence that several dark matter acceleration tests were highly successful, as well as some bioengineering experimentation.

Not finding anything off apparent value, he dove back into the data stream, and continued to the next junction point. He chose the sensor logs as his next destination. He accessed the data node with a touch of his cyber-entity. Browsing through the logs, he noted the last entry. A small vessel, of unknown design and origins, appeared on the long range sensor scan, and then everything went blank. Inspired by disbelief, he dove deeper into the data node, and found something very disturbing. Data of a type he had never seen before was manifesting in the node. Incomprehensible characters and patterns were expanding and growing. Knowing that he had stumbled upon something very important, he began to download into his internal data-bank.

He felt a sudden pain as a hunter-killer grabbed him with itís cyber-pincers, and disrupted his personal integrity. Not wishing to endure the punishments that it had to give, and already possessing a vital clue, the immediately recalled, and found himself once again standing by the computer terminal.

Something was terribly wrong, he knew that now. The ship was still in good condition, so he was not in immediate danger. The computers were being re-written. Was it some type of malicious virus, Or an alien program? Where was the crew, are they dead, hiding? Is there an enemy presence on the ship? He didnít know, but he would find out soon enough.

 

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