The ship slowed and, once the computer guiding it had confirmed that it was traveling at a safe velocity, opened its viewports. Blinding light pierced the interior of the vessel and burned away decades of shadows while illuminating an infinite swirl of dust motes.
A command panel lit up, a row of buttons flashed in waves, and the central display made an electronic plinking sound before filling with a dead grey haze. Fans started to turn in the miles of ventilation shafts that riddled the hull of the ship like rat warrens. As the stale cold air was pushed around, clouds of dust pulsed, flowed, and were sucked through various gratings to be sifted and trapped in thick cotton filtration pads.
The planet below was a gleaming treasure, a red jewel that shone with warmth even with her back to the distant sun. A faint ring of a billion billion fragments of gravity-trapped stone encircled her almost perfectly about her waist in a titanic hula hoop of brittle rock. Her singular moon turned over on itself in its orbit, egg shaped and ponderous and nearly twice the size of the crew’s home world. It was a shame they never got to witness any of it.
A mile long knife of ice, invisible on its edge and deflecting all the ship’s probe signals, sliced the vessel cleanly in half, instantly venting the oxygen and water into the void. The engines let out one last burst of thrust as fuel pods blasted apart, and the wreck was sent drifting at speed into the planet’s glittering ring. She was further broken up as she entered the wide field of rock, ground up and crushed into unidentifiable pieces of alien technology, and finally absorbed.
There hadn’t even been time to send off a distress signal, and the fate of the expedition remained a mystery unsolved for all time.
2014.09.27 – 2023.05.22