Up until January 12th of 2047, it was widely accepted that the ex-planet Pluto was accompanied by 5 natural satellites; Charon, Nix, Hydra, Kerberos, and Styx. The crew of the deep space exploration vessel Hermes discovered a 6th moon whilst photographing the distant planet as they orbited Neptune before their final journey home. When Houston was informed of the development, they were underwhelmed to say the least, as any mass as small as Hermes had described was far too small to be interesting in any way. It wasn’t until the second report came in that control showed any interest in exploring the new body.
I was in charge of navigation and system maintenance on the Hermes, which is why I was the first one to notice something strange with the moon. At first, I assumed a technical issue with the instruments, but not one wire or fuse was out of place, and after several diagnostic checks and 2 system reboots, nothing had changed.
Had the pilot known what the instruments were reading, he would have been just as perplexed as I. Every number and calculation pointed to one observation: the small moon had stopped its own orbit. It hadn’t even slowed down before halting. It went from 4,474 mph to zero in an instant in time, as if our attention had alerted it to our presence. Needless to say, Houston extended our deep space stay and ordered an immediate expedition to the unknown satellite of Pluto.
After one month of travel through the outer edge of the solar system, we could finally view the object with our own eyes, which was a disturbing notion considering the appearance of the thing. We didn’t have a visual at first, since we had to enter Pluto’s orbit from the opposite side of the planet, but once it rose over the horizon we could view it directly out of the cockpit window and record it using our forward cameras. From a greater distance it seemed to be a natural body, but as the distance decreased, the true nature of the objects surface was revealed.
The entire landmass consisted of triangles interlocked in a pattern to create a sphere, almost like the latticework on a dome structure. Any ideas about natural formation were dispelled, and new thoughts entered our minds and the minds of those in the control room on Earth; thoughts of our place in the universe. We were not alone. We were never alone. Our analyst came up with a rough estimation that any beings technologically advanced enough to create such a structure capable of instantaneously and absolutely changing its speed despite its own momentum would have to have been around for millions of years before the first human was banging rocks together. In quite an unprofessional tone of skepticism, he also told us that the physics of the situation were quite impossible, and that such beings might also have to be fourth dimensional. These words were colder and more frightening than the empty space outside our cabin. I didn’t speak for a while.
Less interesting, but still extremely significant, was the light being emitted from the surface. It wasn’t reflection from the Sun, nor was it because of any natural phenomenon, being as sensors indicated that the structure was completely hollow. It was a bright white neon glow coming from the outlines of each triangle, and seeing as measurement and calculations concluded that there were more than 100,000,000,000 panels making up the surface, the light was verging on blinding. We wondered why we hadn’t seen the light emitting from the object earlier. We could only assume it was getting brighter as we got closer.
Because the satellite was stationary and we had to remain in orbit to keep from crashing to Pluto’s surface, we only had a limited amount of time to observe. The entire crew watched through the rear deck as the object set over the horizon of our ex-planet. We would have to wait until we came back around before we could take anymore readings. We tried to sleep, but the tension, fear, and excitement of our new discovery forbid it, so we spent the night reviewing data and video footage.
Because we were orbiting in geosynchronous orbit and because one day on Pluto lasts more than 6 times as long as an Earth day, it was approximately 72 hours before we could see the mystery object again. Our eyes widened as it peaked over the horizon. A lot had changed.
It was now roughly twice its original size, and the white neon light had changed to a vibrant orange color. This would have been startling in itself, but considering that our telescope hadn’t picked up any change in the object since we had left Neptune more than a month ago, we couldn’t help but feel that it knew we were there, and that its new appearance definitely suggested that we weren’t safe.
Our initial fears were instantly confirmed when the Hermes suddenly began to creak and moan, and a low humming noise could be heard outside the ship. Because there is no air in space, there is nothing to carry sound waves, which is why the entire crew immediately began to search every instrument and dashboard in the ship for answers. We soon found that the source of the noise was in fact coming from the object when the entire ship went dark. Engines, electronic systems, boosters, escape pods, emergency systems, life support… everything was down. The only source of light was the moon itself, which bathed every inch of the ship in that sinister glow, which had now turned bright red.
The humming intensified as our communications officer tried frantically to reach Houston. None of us tried to comfort or help him, as we were in awe of the growing alien structure. He started to tear up as his breaths got shorter and quicker. He eventually passed out after trying in vain to get a signal out for at least 3 minutes. As I and the remaining crew found out later, unconsciousness would have been preferable considering the events that were about to transpire.
All noise stopped abruptly as our systems came back online, as if nothing had ever happened. I immediately hit record on the forward and aft cameras in case anything else were to happen.
The structure began to flip and spin in ways that didn’t seem possible. The massive sphere seemed to be turning inside out, and yet not moving at all. It spun faster than the eye could conceive, and yet stayed perfectly still, all at the same time. Simply viewing the event made me and the other crew members nauseous and dizzy. The captain threw up in the floor and passed out. The rest of us simply tried to look away, but the feeling kept intensifying. Each of us dropped to the floor covered in our own vomit one after the other. I fell to my knees. Blood was pouring from my nose and mixing with the previous contents of my stomach on the floor.
The last thing I saw before my vision went dark was my own reflection in the glass of the forward observation deck. My comrades were piled around me on the floor, bloody nosed and covered in bile. There was a figure behind me. It was standing. It clearly wasn’t a crew member. I went unconscious before I could turn around to face it. I saw the fear in my own eyes as my head dropped to the floor.
I had the strangest dream during my unconsciousness. I was back home in New Orleans walking down my street. Every light in the city was off, but I could still see by the light of the burning buildings and cars on the street. Bodies were piled up in the alley ways, some charred and burned, some still ablaze. I got to the end of the street and looked out into the bay. There was no water, only the deep mud of the riverbed. Rotting fish filled the air. I turned around to see the bodies of my wife and son laying in the road. That pulled me out of it.
My eyes opened slowly. My head was killing me, my vision was blurry, and I could barely move. I had been placed up against the wall of the room. Had a crew member moved me? I didn’t care. I had more important questions. Our communications officer was seated on my left near the corner, also leaning up against the wall and still unconscious. My vision was clearing up. I wish it hadn’t. I wish I could have stayed there, unaware of what was going on. I would have rather died.
I looked to my right. There were the bodies of my shipmates piled on the floor. All of them had their eyes wide open. Their pupils were completely blacked out, except, of course, for the blood that was dripping out of their tear ducts.
Standing at least 8 feet over the corpses of my friends was the figure I had seen earlier. My heart started pounding the moment looked up. It had inky black skin, which shimmered in the light of the moon. Its body was completely featureless except for three vertical lines across its face that were glowing with the same intensity and color as the panels on the structure. Its arm was outstretched. Its fingers were wrapped around the head of our captain in such a fashion that his face was completely covered.
The captain’s arms were stretched out behind his body. His knees were still on the floor, but his back was arched as if every muscle in his body was tensed. He shook with the strain of his own muscles flexing and I could hear him moaning in a painful manner.
Kill it. I had to. I had to do something. I couldn’t just let this happen. I was clearly next in line for whatever that thing was doing to my comrades. Kill it now. What was I supposed to do? This was an exploratory mission… we didn’t have any weapons. Nothing. You have to find something. I searched around the room, trying not to be noticed by it.
There. A pair of scissors laying on the floor between me and the communications officer. I reached for them as slowly as I could, keeping my eyes on the creature. It was peering down at the captain, who was still convulsing. I had them in my hand, but I needed a plan. The thing looked like flesh and blood. Go for the neck. I grasped the scissors firmly in my blood covered hand. It was now or never.
I leaned forwards, constantly watching the creature suck the life out of the captain. Slowly now. Don’t let it see you.
The communications officer coughed and moaned loudly behind me. Damn.
The creature’s head snapped around and peered directly at me. Do it now! I jumped to my feet and ran across the room towards my target. The captain’s body fell limp to the ground as the alien turned to face me, but it was already too late for it. I plunged my makeshift weapon as deep as I could into its throat, twisting the scissors to inflict as much damage as possible.
It stumbled backwards hitting the other wall, clutching at the wound to its neck. It was oozing liquid onto the floor and onto itself. The blood glowed a bright neon red just like the moon.
The creature slid down the wall onto the floor, still staring into my eyes. Its body began to fade away like the signal on a television turning into static. I felt the same sickness and pain as before and stumbled back, looking away to avoid the headache. I looked up and the creature was gone, a bloody pair of scissors in its place.
I made the assumption that it had gone back to its ‘ship,’ and that more were coming in its place. Most likely, I would end up like the rest of my crew if any more of those things got on board. Get the hell out of here now.
I picked up the communications officer, as well as the scissors, and started towards the ladder to the cockpit. The officer wasn’t conscious enough yet to even walk, much less climb a ladder. I left him at the bottom and scrambled up to the next floor, immediately passing through the airlock and into the control room. I ran to the generator panel and turned off the gravity systems.
I went head first into the ladder corridor, reaching for the officer’s jacket to haul him up with me. I looked, upside down, through the rungs of the ladder down the ships main hallway and immediately saw two more creatures materialize out of thin air.
My demeanor shifted from calm determination to frantic anxiety. I threw the communications officer into the cockpit and slammed the airtight hatch. I rushed to the flight controls, still not sure how to get rid of the aggressors. The hatch behind me started to hum and vibrate. It wouldn’t be long before they got through. I searched the switchboard for something I could use against them, something that would turn the tides. There! A red button labeled “ATMOSPHERE FLUSH.” I entered my passcode and pressed it without hesitation, not even sure if the vacuum of space would affect the creatures. I heard the air in the rest of the ship get sucked into the void followed by a cold silence.
I didn’t know if the creatures were gone or not, but I wasn’t going to wait around to find out. I set the ship on a full speed collision course with the moon, making sure to shut down the cooling systems for the fusion reactor. The Hermes was going to make an excellent torpedo. The last thing I was going to do was let those bastards get to Earth. I could only assume that they attacked our ship to glean information on our home planet, and my assumption continued to conclude that they weren’t friendly, especially based on the events of the past few hours, which gave me comfort considering that they were about to suffer the heat of a 40 megaton blast.
I began to ready an escape vessel. The Hermes was equipped with three pods in total, but me and the officer would only need one, seeing as the rest of the crew were dead. I said a prayer for my fallen friends as I loaded the food and supplies of the other pods into the one we would be using. The hatch door sealing us off from the rest of the ship began to vibrate again. I hadn’t killed them, but I had slowed them down enough to leave. I closed the pod door just as the floor hatch burst open and the two creatures floated into the room, again, staring directly through the window at me.
The pod burst from its docking bay and away from the Hermes. I watched it accelerate away towards the alien moon, fading away into the complexity of the alien latticework until I lost sight of it completely.
There was a blinding flash of light, silent in the vastness of deep space. The neon glow of the unknown satellite of Pluto flickered and faded from red to orange, then finally back to white before going out completely. Debris scattered into space, in all directions, twinkling as they reflected the light of our Sun, which was now rising from behind Pluto.
I stared in awe at our home star, so far away, yet still so bright. The natural light was comforting. I floated there for a while, my face against the edge of the porthole, not thinking about anything at all except the cold glass against my cheek and the sweat floating weightless on my nose. The officer and I had a long journey home.
I could only pray that I had seen the last of those… things.
I set course for Earth.