Last Light in the Dark - Episode 1

“Why do we always get the—” “Don’t even think about finishing that statement,” Rylee warned. Marcus couldn’t see her face behind the mask of her vac suit, but he could imagine the expression of stern disapproval he’d seen a thousand times before.
Last Light in the Dark - Episode 1
Last Light in the Dark


Episode 1

Last Light in the Dark is a science fiction and horror story about a team of soldiers entering an unknown phenomena in space.

“Why do we always get the—”

“Don’t even think about finishing that statement,” Rylee warned. Marcus couldn’t see her face behind the mask of her vac suit, but he could imagine the expression of stern disapproval he’d seen a thousand times before.

“What?” Lucas asked innocently. He was standing on the wrecked ship just ahead of Marcus, digging through a stack of old cables that were stiff and brittle from time spent in the vacuum of space. One snapped loose in his hand, exposing the tiny frozen wires. He tossed it overhead, letting it float out into nothingness.

“You heard me.”

“I was just going to say—”

“You were going to ask why we always get stuck with bad jobs, but ‘bad’ wasn’t going to be the word you used, was it?”

The only sound for the next few long seconds was their collective breathing transmitted through the comm system.

Lucas cleared his throat. “So, yeah, that was what I was going to say, but my point still stands. I mean, you know I’m right. We’re always stuck with the jobs no other team wants.”

“Someone has to do them.”

“But why is it always us? Did I piss somebody off in a past life and this is my revenge? Did you piss somebody off higher up the chain?” Lucas asked. “Wait, never mind. Don’t answer that. It’s you, after all, so I know you pissed someone off.”

“Ours is not to reason why…”

“Yeah, yeah, I get it. Your favorite poem. It’s a stupid poem, in my humble opinion, because the entire point of it is ‘don’t complain when you’re about to die.’ You know what? I would rather not die, if given the choice, and if I am going to die, I sure as hell am going to complain about it. What is our chance of dying on a stupid asset recovery mission like this, anyway? Like two percent? Less? It’s probably less.”

“I would have thought our chance of dying out here was around zero,” Marcus offered.

“Unless I shoot you,” Rylee added.

“That’s not funny,” Lucas said. “But you know what I mean. We’re not exactly risking our lives out here. Unless you think there is a chance we’re going to die of boredom.”

“You would rather be somewhere risking your life?”

“I would like for there to be some risk. I didn’t sign up to be a glorified trash man.”

“That’s a stupid thing to hope for.”

“I mean, I don’t want to die or anything, I just…”

“You just what?”

“Back me up here, Marcus. You know this is a joke detail.”

Marcus shook his head. “I’m staying out of it.”

“Admit it. You would rather be back in your bunk getting some shuteye. Or better yet, working with Alpha Squad to clear the bridge and main decks of the wreck. You might not get to shoot something, but you’ll at least come out of here with accolades for finding something useful.”

“That wasn’t our assignment.”

Lucas threw up his hands in exasperation. “That’s my entire point.

Marcus pursed his lips. “I think I see something.”

They were about halfway through their section of debris from this demolished shipping vessel that had been hit by pirates, working their way through an old service corridor that had been vented. The wreck was about a week old, and there were clear signs of the attack. Scorch marks, rends in the hull, and no survivors.

The Endeavor, where the three of them served, was a naval war vessel. It had received a distress call, but was too far out to save anyone. Their current mission was patrolling this shipping lane, but none of the bandits and pirates attacking merchants would dare come into radar range of The Endeavor. Even Marcus had to admit that it felt like their entire job had turned into cleaning up after the attacks rather than stopping them from happening. They were nearing the end of their tour and had done little else except document the destruction and scavenge supplies.

This section of the destroyed ship splintered away from the main wreckage and was floating a few dozen kilometers away from the bulk of it. If anything, it was worse than their normal jobs: since the atmosphere had vented early in the fight, the odds of finding anything of value were slim to none.

Lucas wasn’t wrong: this was a garbage detail wrapped inside of a garbage mission stuffed into a garbage tour of duty. They were never picked to go on important jobs, which meant they never received accolades or even recognition. Right now, Vince and Alpha Team were combing through the bridge and upper decks of the wrecked ship, gathering up survivors and sending supplies back to the Endeavor. Personally, he felt it was all crap.

Of course, he would never tell his commanding officer, Rylee, that.

He came across a frozen terminal mounted in a wall. He tapped on it a few times, and suddenly it flickered to life, scrolling through boot details.

“What did you find?” Rylee asked, appearing at his shoulder.

“It looks like an old service terminal. Somehow, it still has power.”

“Battery backup, most likely.”

“Yeah, but if it has its own battery backup, it must be important. Want me to jack it loose?”

“See if you can get any data off it first.”

Marcus unclipped a small adapter from his vac suit and plugged it into the terminal. Numbers and symbols began flashing across his viewscreen as the data was processed. He scrolled through the output for a few seconds.

“Looks like it’s hooked up to a maintenance subsystem.”

“So, nothing of value,” Rylee proffered with a sigh.

“Not necessarily,” Marcus said. He bridged a suit link to the screen so he could control the network internally. He squeezed his finger and thumb together and began flicking his wrist, quickly manipulating the data systems. “Let me see if it had access to any core systems. A lot of smaller ships like this have mis-configured security networks and there is a chance the maintenance network had access to some log streams.”

Lucas coughed. “What does that mean?”

“It means people cut corners and never configure things correctly. Everything flows through maintenance for debugging, but most of the time the crew doesn’t know they should or how to turn those parameters off. If we’re lucky, this will be one of those ships.”

“Yeah, I still didn’t understand that. What does it actually mean?”

Marcus didn’t answer him and instead continued scanning, stopping finally when he reached what he was looking for.

“Bingo. Looks like it interfaced directly with the combat systems, including the AI. Full logs, including details of their last engagement.”

“Their literal last engagement,” Lucas added with a chuckle. “Since they were destroyed and all.”

Marcus ignored him. “I can tight beam this data up to Nigel.”

“Won’t matter,” Rylee said, shaking her head. “Anything you find here is also going to be on the bridge, so Vince’s team will find it, too.”

“True,” Marcus agreed, “but if we log it first, then it supersedes anything Vince submits, since his would just a duplicate.”

Rylee tilted her head. “You’re thinking it will include details about who attacked them?”

“Definitely, or at least enough to narrow it down based on the metadata of the attack. And if it does, we will have been the ones who figured it out.”

“And in that case, we will be the ones who get to file the report,” Rylee finished. “Good thinking.”

“Yeah,” Lucas added sarcastically. “Good thinking. All we want is more paperwork.”

“You don’t even do the paperwork,” Rylee said. “I do.”

He shrugged. “That’s beside the point.”

Marcus closed the files and compressed them for the tight beam. He clicked open the connection back to the ship. “Nigel, are you reading us?”

“Where have you guys been,” Nigel said breathlessly on the other end of the line. “I’ve been trying to reach you for ten minutes.”

“I turned the comms off,” Lucas said. “It’s bad enough having to do this crap at all, let alone do it while listening to you talk about how cool it all is.”

“Easy for you to say. You get to go down there. I’m stuck up here running scans and listening to the officers talk about all the cool things they are finding on the bridge. Did you know that this ship was transporting twenty-five tons of—”

“I’m about to send you a tight beam,” Marcus interrupted. “I need you to get it logged into the system before Vince’s team logs anything and—”

“No can do,” Nigel said. “They locked all of the networks down and aren’t processing anything right now. There is a lot of chatter up here: something big is going down.”

The three exchanged a glance.

“What happened? Was there an attack?” Rylee asked.

“No clue. Nothing official has been reported, but I’ve heard through the grapevine that we’re going to be moving in under an hour.”

“An hour?” Rylee asked. “That’s insane. They won’t even be done scanning the wreck in that time.”

“Looks like we’re abandoning it.”

Everyone was silent for a long moment, an unspoken cloud of anticipation hanging in the air. Finally, Lucas said what they were all thinking:

“It must have been an attack.”

“That’s the likely scenario,” Nigel said. “But I’m telling you, nothing is official. If I were you, though, I would start working my way back to the transport and keep your comms on. I’m going to go ask around for some more details.”

The connection ended. 

“You know what this means?” Rylee asked softly.

“What?” Lucas asked.

“That two percent chance of dying you asked about earlier. It just went up.”

Continue on to the second episode to see where their journey leads!
Last Light in the Dark - Episode 2
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