Chapter 02: Cold Silence

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Eric stood on the bridge with Marco, both of them standing behind Jensen, who was trying to raise the facility on the comms.

The asteroid itself was in clear sight by now, slowly growing larger as they approached it. Eric couldn't take his eyes off of it. From the second he'd stepped onto the bridge and laid eyes on it, that gray, isolated mote had ensnared him with a cold, petrifying terror. He couldn't give voice to it, even inside of his own mind he couldn't rationalize it. The thought that came when he stared at it was, at least, a simple one.

It was like looking at death.

Eric had stared death in the face enough to know what it looked like, and he was looking at it now. And as much as it filled him with a whispering, petrifying terror, there was also an equally horrifying longing, buried in the substrata of his psyche. For some time now, Eric had been cautiously excavating the inner workings of his own mind. The war had left it a confused mess, a bloodied quagmire of razorwire and darkness. It was as if someone had detonated a powerful explosive deep in the core of his soul and, even to this day, he could still feel the aftershocks of that eruption, and things were still settling down in new configurations.

Something he had discovered was that he may very well be suicidal.

"I repeat, Theseus Station, this is the Search & Rescue vessel Liberation, we've picked up your distress call and are responding. What is the nature of your emergency?" Jensen asked once more, his voice sounding strained and a bit grim.

He paused, then sat back and sighed.

"I'm not getting anything," he said, glancing up at Marco. "I mean nothing. The distress signal isn't even active anymore."

"What does the BioScan say?" Marco replied.

Jensen checked another one of his screens and shook his head. "Still getting scrambled results. There's something interfering with the scan down there."

"Any idea what it could be?"

"Honestly? No."

"Eric?" Marco asked, glancing over.

Startled, Eric broke his intense gaze at the asteroid and glanced over. "What, Captain?" he replied, feeling a little embarrassed that he'd been caught off guard.

"The BioScan, something's wrong," Marco replied.

Eric nodded and leaned over Jensen, studying the results. They definitely looked odd and it was certainly some kind of interference, but, after a moment of studying it, he realized that he didn't recognize what he was seeing at all.

"I have no idea," he said, perplexed. "I've...I've never seen anything like this before. It isn't any kind of radiation interference, no solar storms or flares, definitely not equipment malfunction. It's showing life signs, but not how many or what kind or even where they are...sorry Captain. I'm completely stumped."

"Fantastic," Marco murmured. "Well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, I suppose. Jensen, appraise S and R Command of our arrival and inform them that we're landing and preparing to investigate."

"Captain..." Jensen replied, making both men look at him. Something in his voice sounded off.

"Yes?" Marco asked.

"If something goes wrong...we're pretty far out here. It may be awhile before someone comes to help," Jensen answered.

"We'll have to take that risk," Marco replied. "Begin landing."

"Yes, Captain."

Marco turned on his heel and strode out of the bridge, looking big, professional, and vaguely intimidating in his suit of green armor, helmet under one arm. Being a bit paranoid, Eric never put on his armor without also putting on his helmet. He followed the Captain out. As they walked through the ship together, back towards the airlock, feeling the subtle vibrations of the ship as it began moving into a landing procedure, Eric quickly checked over his various pockets, making sure that he hadn't forgotten anything.

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