The long bud of its fuselage swept past the observation deck of the station as the massive ship accelerated out of docking position. A class of children from the station’s elementary school pressed their noses against the reinforced glass, watching with a small crowd of curious onlookers. As it cleared the planet’s gravitational pull, the ship seemed to slow as its hind quarters opened up slowly into a thousand petals, each structure an element in the most complex drive ever commissioned by the Opsis Initiative. In the observation deck, the air vents were laced with the rich scent of flowers to celebrate the departure. Off in the distance, the space around the petals vibrated and shimmered, and then the ship was gone.
Commander’s Ship Log, Opsis Trepedity, Launch plus 2 days.
Our first port of call, is very far from any port in the quadrant. Our science team can’t be precise yet due to the uncharted nature of this area of space, but it is thought we are now 70 light years from Cetric Station 1, farther than any Opsis ship has ever been.
The rocky moon we’re orbiting is a dazzling sight of red iron ores and green cupric crystalline geology. Our sensor technologies are recording all they can, and ship systems are functioning at normal levels.
Science Chief’s Log, Opsis Trepidity, Launch plus 4 days.
Our departure from the moon which some of the crew are calling Rosebush, has been delayed. On the 3rd day in orbit there was strange geological activity on the surface of the moon. Plumes of surface dust were ejected into space and we were directly in the path of one of these phenomenon. Teams are assessing damage to the surface plates and making sure all systems are go. We need to make sure our outer hull is not contaminated in any way which would affect our Tredepity’s drive harmonics. Our first real hiccup on the mission and the team is adjusting admirably.
Chief Medic’s Log, Opsis Trepidity, Launch plus 7 days.
Our situation has deteriorated over the past two days and the commander has called a red-alert. We appear to be in danger, but it isn’t any kind we were prepared for.
48 hours ago, the hull repair crews finished off their sweep and repair of the hull plating. All teams were cleared through air lock and taken through decontamination. During the process, unknown microbes were detected and it is thought they were part of the dust from the moon’s surface.
They are unlike anything we’ve seen. The closest examples we have are certain kinds of viruses, which barely tick all the boxes for being “life”.
Despite all our protective gear and protocols, it would seem the microbes are at a scale which can defeat most of our filters and biological defences. A dozen of the repair team were initially infected, the microbe detected in their lung tissue. That number is increasing despite our bet efforts.
The infected patients behave normally for some hours and then … this is difficult to explain … they have begun slowing down.
“Commander! Anand! I have no explanation for what happened to those men, but you must come with me now. We have no idea how advanced your infection is. Please!”
The Doctor seemed to rush through these words.
“I am the commander of this ship and I will not be ordered around! There is no time for protocol now,” I thought I screamed, but the doctor had a puzzled look on his face as if I’d said something bizarre and alien.
“Andy!, you’re slipping away. Keep talking tell us what you see. .. Commander! Can you hear me?”
The doctor’s words and hands seemed to speed past my senses. The command room dimmed around me as lights and electrical signals buzzed into my vision and seared through my consciousness. My mind was at peace, in a slow, calm dance with the moon below me.
How could I see the moon below me? The ship seemed to have evaporated and I was floating in space with the dust and the planets and the stars as my company.
And then the moon spoke.
“We are sorry for the interruption and for all the men we took, but this is the only way we could communicate,” said the strange voice in my head.
“Who are you?” I thought, calmly.
“The microbes you’re wondering about. We are a space-faring race that travels with space dust and cosmic winds. We are everywhere and in every probability.”
“I don’t understand.”
“We tried contacting your other men. Their thinking was not compatible, but you seem to understand the idea of forking possibilities. The tree of life.”
“What did you do to my men? They slowed down and they disappeared.”
“We were trying to sync them to our sense of time so we could communicate. It did not work with them. You are the first to respond.”
“What happens now? What do you want? Give me back my ship and my men!” I tired to be forceful but it seemed to not work in this reality.
“You can have that and more. We would like to give you all the possibilities.”
The space around me seemed to expand and suddenly the Trepidity was floating past, with me a speck at its dorsal seam. And then another appeared, and another and the empty space around me was drowning in ships. All of them mine, all of them different. Some very slightly, a different colour on the drive casing, some completely removed, damaged, remade, rethought.
I peered into the ghostly lights that glowed inside each one and in each a full crew was going about their business like the mission had continued without incident. Most of them I recognised, some were new and alien, some were merely variations of the people I knew.
All these ships and possibilities, overlapping, floating through one another in a dense mesh of light and colour and the silence of space.
“Commander, we went everywhere, we are everywhere. After millions of years of that, we understood something fundamental. Why go everywhere and experience everything, if you could have already done it?”
My eyes grew wide at the thought, as all the probabilities collided and separated and reformed and danced apart like a complex kaleidoscope of choice.
“Choose, Commander,” said the voice. And when you are done, choose again. Maybe you’ve already found what you’re looking for. You surely have.”
I swivelled around in open space, if this was space at all, as I knew it. A ghostly Trepedity was just sailing into me, its outer hull smoothly going through my torso and passing through while I considered every vision of what could be.
“How?” I asked.
“Try,” they suggested.
So I lifted a finger and concentrated at its tip. It began to shimmer and vibrate like the thousand petalled drive on the Opsis Trepedity just before it made a jump. But this was more, more powerful, more final, more impermanent. Reality shook and shifted, and then without having consciously made a choice, I had chosen.