Five years

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Current Crew: Captain - Chance Sarridge, Doctor - Alexandrea Exendine, Mechanic - Joseph Peck, Pilot - Marjorie Thompson

The FSF Delivery weaved through the planetary debris field in Marjorie's practiced hands. The ship burned hard to the right and a body, spinning end over end, passed harmlessly. Marjorie muttered and eased back the throttle, bringing the ship to a stop among the ruins of the dead world. She activated the point defense systems before standing up and removing her interface helmet.

The ship's cockpit was lit dim green and yellow by the various readouts and screens. She reached over to the keyboard on the left side and typed a command to activate the comms system. While she was typing she leaned out a bit further and tried to see if she could look back and see the body. Unfortunately all she could see was more rubble.

She pulled the phone off the receiver and waited for the long beep. "Captain Sarridge," she started, "We're about 15 clicks off the signal, if you wanna come up here."

A long silence followed before a man's voice broke it. "Uh. Yeah, one second."

Marjorie rolled her eyes. "Alex can come too. Might be more bodies for her to examine."

The pause after that was shorter before a woman's voice said, "Love you too, Marj."

Marjorie smirked. "Y'all get dressed and get up here. We've got work to do."

"Are we any closer to figuring out what happened?" The captain looked down at the readouts and grimaced.

Marjorie shook her head. "Whatever did this, it likely happened in the last couple hundred years. Orbital models ain't reliable that far back."

Alex put her hand out on the table and tapped the readout in front of her. "It could be longer. The models for organic decay in vacuum assume stellar body radiation. There's no star here, so these corpses could be much older than that. A few thousand years, even."

The captain tilted his head to the side. "The life in this system would've needed a star to survive. We have to assume it got ejected from the system by whatever did this."

"Then it ain't a fusion candle either," Marjorie interjected. "Tidal forces destroyed the planet, but a gas giant's not big enough to eject a star."

Alex nodded. "No stars in the immediate area have the right trajectories to do this either. I have a lot of theories on this, but honestly, who knows?"

"They know." The captain said it with a sense of finality. Everyone looked at the large screen at the center of the console. An imposing box periodically pulsed with a radio signal.

The FSF Delivery floated about 60 meters away from the entrance. The mechanic was the only one left on board at the moment. Marjorie, Alex, and the Captain examined the door of a gently spinning metal building with flashlights. The three of them felt around the entrance for any activating mechanism before Marjorie came in over the suit radio.

"Looks like we get to cut it open."

The captain pulled his plasma lash from the scabbard on his left hip and pressed a button on the side. The three of them winced for a moment as a brilliant blue light came out of the device. The captain pressed it into the door and began the process of cutting through.

Gases began to leak from the inside of the door and Alex reached out with a gathering tool to gather what she could when the remains of the door shifted and shot out into space.

Marjorie pursed her lips. "Is full pressure good or bad?"

"I, uh," Alex paused, "I don't know. Probably bad if it wasn't a sterile environment in there."

The captain put his cutter back in its scabbard and looked inside. The corridor was built for something about two heads taller than Captain Sarridge and a head taller than Marjorie. Their flashlights illuminated a reddish gray metal which appeared to cover the entire hallway. Various etched symbols and patterns differentiated the floor and ceiling from the two walls.

It took them 10 minutes to get to the center of the object, passing by several desiccated corpses along the way. Alex stopped twice to take samples and pictures. Eventually, the three of them came to the center of the object, with Marjorie entering the room first.

After several seconds she called out over the radio. "It's clear, Captain."

Captain Sarridge and Alex entered the room to see Marjorie with her hand from the plasma lash at her hip.

The Captain chuckled. "Nothing but ghosts here."

Marjorie smiled back. "Remember Lambda 98? Ghosts's dangerous."

Alex stepped towards the console at the center of the room. The computer screens remained dark as she approached. "Orders, sir?"

Captain Sarridge looked down at the console. There were no obvious buttons, switches, or keyboard-like interfaces, just screens around the central pillar. "Go ahead and see if you can…"

The captain was interrupted as the entire facility lit up with a light red hue. The screens suddenly turned on as well and a voice no one recognized spoke over the radio. "Hello, wanderers. Do not be alarmed. I have learned your language from your ship's database and your radio signals."

Captain Sarridge sighed. "Hello. Who are you?"

The voice answered immediately. "I am what remains of these people. I was built to help those who would come after avoid the destruction we faced."

"Can you explain this technology to us?"

"I cannot. I serve a singular purpose. To warn of the destroyer."

Alex stepped forward to stand abreast with Captain Sarridge. "Why did it destroy you?"

"For centuries we carelessly screamed into the void. Never did we receive a reply. We believed we were alone until it answered us. It wished to sleep, and our signals had caused it to stir."

Alex grimaced slightly. "What happened?"

"Destruction. We must warn you against looking to the stars further or it will find you. It is not enough that you do not venture forth further. You must keep your eyes to the ground."

Marjorie lightly brushed the handle of her plasma lash during the pause. "What's this thing y'all're so afraid of?"

The three of them stepped back as the dozens of screens showed the same image.

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