The heartbeat’s pulse was increasing slightly as Jove rested his hand lightly against its side. Grey eyes opened to a view of the greenish grey of the ship’s hull. Shackleton was nervous.
Hurrying towards the command center located aft, Jove ran his fingers along the organic hull next to him. The ship was warm to the touch and if one concentrated they could feel the ship’s lifeblood being pumped throughout its hull. No time for that now, he had to do what he could to solve Shackleton’s mood.
No-one person understood how these ships worked in its entirety or even how the first came to be. So it’s not like he could go look up a guidebook or call the ship’s specialist over. Each crew member was responsible for a different part of the ship but even as captain he had little idea of what to do in this kind of situation. The Shackleton has always been a steadfast little ship and had served well in the scouting across the Kuiper belt. It was much more intelligent than the average man so it often answered his questions. What was he supposed to do now that his chief answerer was in such a panic?
As Jove moved along past the crew’s cabins a door slid open behind him. Spinning around found him face to face with the navigator Myra. She flicked her brown hair impatiently out of her face as she paced forward saying, “Did you feel it?”
Giving a silent nod of his head Jove continued to walk towards the command center with Myra falling into step behind. She talked as they walked, “If it was an attack or something else life threatening the sirens would have kicked in by now. So it must be some kind of intellectual problem.” She talked with the reasoning of a seasoned spacer. Jove was new to the domain of space but had been assigned the duty of captain because of abilities unknown to his shipmates.
Nodding along with Myra’s assumption even though in his bones he felt something more sinister going on out in the void, they continued up the hallway towards the command center. The door to the bridge slid open as they approached and the pair walked through it without breaking stride. An unusual cacophony of beeps and blinking of lights was overwhelming the senses of Myra and Jove as they struggled to take in the sight that lay before .
A Centaurin by the name of Jerg-a-Jug was bent over the control panel hammering at buttons. If his species had sweat glands he would have been sweating all over. The small blue man huffed, “Bloody ship is going haywire at some UFO.”
Jove walked over to the control panel and watched over the man’s shoulder as if he understood what was going on. “UFO?” He inquired.
“It’s an archaic term for an unidentified object; I’ve been watching too many old earth films.”
Jove snorted as he gazed at the red blip on the map in front of him denoting what he guessed was the object. Myra nodded towards the red dot and asked the question that he had been burning to, “So what is it Jug?”
Jerg-a-Jug continued with his hammering of the panel but spared them a look. His eyes were a violent shade of violet that pierced them as he said something that they had never heard a Centaurin admit. “I don’t know.” A frown filled his face as his furrowed gaze returned to the panel.
Myra and Jove exchanged startled looks. Centaurins were notoriously intelligent creatures who understood the workings of ships better than any other species. For one to say that he didn’t know what was in or directly outside the ship was highly unusual.
“Any ideas?” Asked Jove in what he hoped was a happy voice.
The Centaurin was about to answer but stopped and then actually paused over his pattering as the ship spoke in its long, halting voice: “Ghost ship.”
They had heard of this phenomenon but never experienced it or had met anyone that had experienced it themselves. The galaxy was a big place and ghost ships were few and drifted far.
“It’s made of… I don’t believe it,” whispered Jerg-a-Jug. “It’s made of non-organics.”
“Impossible,” Jove said with a hint of a laugh. He would have laughed aloud and written the experience off if the other two hadn’t been so serious. A non-organic ship? What a silly idea. How did it even access dark energy to stay powered? How did the crew stay alive if it did not provide oxygen and nutrients?
“Non-organic ghost ships are the stories told around fires to scare children: Ghost stories. They aren’t real.” Reasoned Jove.
Myra bent over the control panel to manipulate buttons to bring up a live video feed of the ship. She turned to look into Jove’s grey eyes and replied, “Is that real?”
The screen that appeared on the hull displayed a ship stranger than anything in all the worlds. It was an ugly thing with holes and gashes riddled throughout a metal hull. If it had been alive at one point it was surely dead by now. Shackleton had never experienced a ghost ship before either so protocol hadn’t been established and it had been assumed a threat.
Jove agreed to disagree with his protector. The ghost ship on the screen didn’t look dangerous. If anything it was sad. It had been drifting throughout the galaxy for who knows how long.
The two others looked to Jove as he said, “Shackleton, analyze and determine actual threat level.”
The ship hummed an affirmative and began analyzing the ghost ship. After a few seconds delay the reply came, “Void of thermal signatures. Threat level determined to be high due to unknown components and origin. May contain a space virus or other old-world disease that affected early explorers.”
A glittering had filled Jove’s eyes as he considered the ship in a new light. Glory would be his if he brought back this ship to the federation. A ghost ship hadn’t been found in living memory. A vision of interviews behind spotlights filled his eyes as Myra said, “Let’s destroy it, boss…”
“No,” replied Jove quickly with a greedy gleam in his eye. “We will board, search and then bring the vessel home.”
As the crew of the Shackleton made ready to board the ghost ship, a cryogenic chamber door slowly swung open on board the ghost ship. A hand reached out to grasp the top of the chamber with white knuckles.