Icarus: Epilogue – August 9th, 2143 Subjective/August 9th, 2145 Objective

August 9th, 2143 Subjective/August 9th, 2145 Objective

AFTER ACTION REPORT #452
SYSTEM REPORTING: ALPHA CENTAURI; PRIMARY ALPHA
COMMAND: CSS PERSHING, 4TH FLEET
CO: 06 CPT KILLIAN, JAMES

The wreck discovered orbiting Alpha Centauri’s dwarf planet EISIN B is confirmed to be the North American Expeditionary Science Vessel Icarus. Presumed lost over fifty years ago, rediscovering the wreck will shed some light on the NAEF’s Time-Vortex technology. Following the Collapse, much of it was lost.

It appears that the ship collided with an asteroid approximately the size of a human fist at roughly one-third the speed of light. A good chunk of the forward hull was ripped away by the force of the collision. My tech officer also reports that the ship was outfitted with a type of ablative armor, though most of it seems to have been burned away.

Three crew members were recovered from the wreck, all three remarkably well preserved. They all appeared to have died of exposure, though tests will be run once we return to Earth. We simply do not have the facilities aboard the Pershing to examine them here. In the meantime they’ll be put in cryo freeze for the return trip.

We also recovered a portable computer terminal. It was found on one of the less preserved bodies and exposure has all but destroyed it. Perhaps something will be recoverable, though the technology is rather ancient. Our IT department will have a field day with it I’m sure.

For now the Pershing will be returning to Earth immediately. Once she hears about this, we’ll be made to come straight home anyway. I hope they can discover what made the Icarus operation such a failure. From what I hear, they fell off the grid the moment they went into the Vortex. Poor bastards.

Well, at least now their families might get some closure after all these years. Most have forgotten perhaps but if I know Sarah… well she won’t. Fifty years and she finally convinced the Council to send a ship here.

I’d love to hear her story some day. Seventy and can still boss around a Confed Council, no wonder she never married.

THE END

Icarus – May 1st, 2099

May 1st, 2099

How do you say goodbye to life? As it turns out, you do it as quickly as possible. My computer’s power is all but gone and I have just enough to seal away one last entry. It will be encoded and preserved as best I can, though it won’t matter. This is for me, for both of us for there are two of us: the man I was and the creature I will be.

I am hours away from the radiation kill zone around Alpha Centauri’s primary star. There is a technical name for it but I don’t remember what it is. Once the Icarus crosses that line, I will die. The ablative armor on the ship’s hull will burn away like paper thrust into a bonfire. There is the possibility of being struck by a meteorite, there’s a couple million out there, circling the planets. I didn’t aim the ship to avoid them.

Five minutes. Jesus this isn’t even going to be read. Mom, dad, you won’t even know what happened to me. Sarah? Christ you haven’t talked to me in years, a decade. It’s been a decade since I left Earth, it just doesn’t feel that way.

I came out here to get away from everything, to leave all my pain and my regrets behind. They were beasts, raging at the doors of my sanity. Out here, I thought I’d change. I was too afraid to be happy, to be the man I wanted to be so desperately. Sarah wanted me to be that man, helped and urged me to change but I wouldn’t listen.

I hear her voice, calling me. Finally. I’ve waited so long to come back. It’s the madness, the creature inside me that’s talking but I don’t care. I see a door ahead of me and it leads back to our old apartment. Inside, she’s waiting for me, looking young and beautiful. She’s beckoning and sunlight is turning her short hair to gold and white. Oh, God, if you could only see what I see.

Icarus – April 30th, 2099

April 30th, 2099

What have I done? Sarah will not come to me! She stands on the other side of the sealed doors and turns her back on me! Sarah, oh Sarah, why? I… what have I done to the controls? Why are they broken? What have I done?

The colors are all wrong in here. I must write it down, that’s it. If I write it down, it will be right again. It must be why there are so many locked entries before this. Why are they locked? Why can’t I read my own entries?

She’s looking at me, frowning, pointing. Why? What is she so upset? No! No… please, no…

Icarus – April 29th, 2099

April 29th, 2099

There is nothing brave about me. You need only look back at my previous entries to understand that, but there is something inside me besides fear. These past few days I’ve been living in a dream, following Sarah down this rabbit hole to my destruction. I loved her, more than I ever knew. She urged me to leave my desk job behind, to follow my dream and write my book. I was too scared then.

But now, in this I’ve found a kind of a strength. Here, at the end of everything, beyond the reach of mankind, I’ve found the courage to do one last thing. Sarah showed me how to steer the ship, to turn it toward the Time-Vortex Tunnel. She wants me to come home, but I’m following another dream.

All of the infected bodies and all of my crewmates are still aboard, waiting for me. They will wait until I come out and join them. Together we are poised to return to Earth and spread. I won’t allow that to happen.

We’re going to visit Alpha Centauri’s primary star. I’ve set it to hard burn and locked myself out, destroyed the panels with a wrench. It’s too late to be scared or feel sorry for myself. We’re all going to burn, flying so close to the star that we incinerate into flecks of dust.

Now I can close my eyes and let her come to me and I will accept her with open arms.

Icarus – April 28th, 2099

April 28th, 2099

The lights on the Icarus have all gone out. I float in the darkness of the engine rooms, slowly feeling a chill creep into me. The Song is my only company since the screaming stopped. I don’t hear them anymore. They neither bang on the doors nor scratch at the grating. They aren’t gone though, they’re just waiting.

Waiting for me to come to them.

Why has it taken so much longer for me? Why did it take the others so swiftly and leave me alone to wrestle with it for days? It is the sickness, I can’t deny it anymore. Soon I will be one of them. I can feel it inside me, wrenching at my muscles, tearing into my mind. It’s the Song, a kind of hive-mind. It sings to you, telling you just one thing: spread. That is the melody by which they live, a melody I am powerless to stop.

I’ve decided to be clinical about this, to describe it as best I can before I can no longer write. The fever robs you of sleep, makes you see things. For me it has been Sarah. In these waking moments I read over what I’d written before and it’s so obvious. She is the illness made manifest, coaxing me on to do its bidding. Early on, you aren’t unconscious, your mind dissolved and replaced. You are simply tricked into a delusional dream-state.

I’m no scientists as I’ve said before, but I believe it comes in the form of your greatest desire or greatest regret. It pulls on strong memories, attaches itself there and moves you toward it. Eventually even that will be gone and the tumors I’d seen will control your basest of instincts, fight and kill and feed.

Icarus – April 26th (approximate), 2099

April 26th (approximate), 2099

Oh Jesus. Oh my God, what have I done? I let them in while they were asleep and then I… I just left. Went to the engine rooms and sealed myself in. Why am I not dead? Why did the others leave me alone?

I can’t get that song out of my head. It’s louder, pounding inside like a migraine. I hear it in the walls, feel it through the floor and it comes with each beat of my pulse. Is that blood? I’m bleeding from somewhere, my fingernails, my ears… where is it all coming from?

They’re banging on the door, screaming my name. Is that my name? Is that how it sounds? Sarah, you never called me that. You always called me Will, not traitor. Is that what I am? Did I do this? I can’t hear myself think anymore, all I hear is that song. One of the words makes sense to me now.

Brother.

Icarus – April 18th, 2099

~>ICARUS COMMSAT INTERFACE INITIALIZED 04.18.2099

~>INPUT PROTOCOL

>input.secure.protocol 99157B98

~>CHANNEL OPEN

>Evacuation needed# Engines disabled# Bridge disabled# 5 dead# Coordinates-1A.B+23.C+5#

>Passcode: ********

~>SENDING…

~>UPLINK FAILED::ERROR RESPONSE FROM ANTENNAE 1 2 3

~>SHUTTING DOWN

Icarus – April 14th, 2099

April 14th, 2099

Kira was worse today. She slept most of the day yesterday and woke up this morning still exhausted. There was no fever but her red blood cell count was low. I’m no doctor but that, coupled with her lack of eating and nausea, made it sound like radiation poisoning. We’re not very close to Alpha Centauri’s primary but Kira was out longer and more frequently than the rest of us. Anne dosed her with some anti-radiation shots just to be sure and laid her up in their quarters.

For my part, I have a horrid feeling about the whole thing. They tested the blood from the corpse and found similar readings. Low red and white blood cell counts in just about every one of the dead crewmen. Just to be safe, the rest of the crew made Kate back the Icarus off a few thousand kilometers, but it didn’t make me feel any better. There was no damage to the ablative armor on that ship. Radiation just strikes me as the wrong cause here and radiation doesn’t cause eyes to turn black. Then again I’m no scientist either.

Alex and Bree were busy in the Science lab, taking readings and measurements of the system. There are two planets that we can see and Bree believes there’s a few more by the secondary star. Neither planet can support human life, being too close in orbit. That was the only excitement. The rest was dull and I didn’t offer to see Kate again.

Instead Jennie and I went up to the observation deck and just took it in. The blaze of Alpha Centauri’s primary is glorious in its incendiary blaze. With the viewing ports dimmed as low as they can go and our UV shutters engaged, it still appeared as a great yellow fireball, roiling and spitting.

We spent hours up there, just watching. The two of us sat next to one another but never touched. She was in awe but like Niagara, it was merely an intellectual fascination for me. What must it feel like to be inexorably drawn to beauty and be so affected by it that you are caught up and swept away by it? Sarah was easily taken by such feelings. She tried to describe it to me once. I thought I knew how she felt, for I felt it only once. With her.

It felt like love.

Icarus – April 12th, 2099

April 12th, 2099

I visited Kate today. She couldn’t stay in her Can forever of course, so instead they locked her in her quarters. Evan set it up so she couldn’t unlock or even open the door. One of us has to bring her meals and today was my turn.

We talked and of course she tried to get me to let her out. She tried to explain that this was all some kind of horrid misunderstanding but she knew it was useless. Where could she go if I let her out? After that she just asked about the body.

I told her what I knew, that the tumors were not cancer like Kira initially thought. The theory was that the Chinese ship came too close to Alpha Centauri’s prime star and the radiation made the crew sick. That theory was put to bed with a quick visual scan of the ship. Its ablative armor was intact.

The questions I wanted to ask were hard, but I asked them anyway. Why weren’t we told about the other ships? Why so much mystery and intrigue for a simple science experiment? She didn’t say anything at all, wouldn’t even open her mouth for me. All she did was look away.

As I got up to leave she did ask me one last thing. She asked how Kira was. It was such an unexpected question that I didn’t know what to say at first. I told her the truth. One of the tumors burst on her today and she put herself in quarantine for a few hours. Anne took her vitals and she appeared fine. The tumor was just a sack of blood.

Kate didn’t say anything and I was just about to cycle the door when she called my name. She told me to send a beam to Earth and when I asked what to say, she gave me a code. I didn’t understand it but it sounded military. I’ll go over it with the others later, but I doubt they’ll trust her enough to send it.

Trust is a word we hold like a dagger to each others’ throats.

Icarus – 2099

2099

We are a decade into the future, relatively speaking. Rich was the one who discovered it after doing a calibration on the standard drives. Most of our power banks were low and recharging, so when he went down to look at them he saw the wear on the systems. From there he was able to determine how long we’d been under.

According to our Cans, we’d only been under for 4.85 years, which the Icarus accounted for. Rich and Evan both assume it was the extra burn time Jim had ordered. We’d traveled beyond the speed of light, causing more Dilation than we’d anticipated. The eggheads at NASA are going to have a field day with this.

If we ever get back.

As for Jim, Alex theorized that it was his metabolism that did it. He was healthier than the rest of us and might have burned off the drug faster. Add in Dilation and it paints a grim picture. The others weren’t convinced, Jennie and I included.

They locked Kate in her Can as a precaution. She was the last one in and something happened to Jim’s injection. Kate wouldn’t tell us what year it was and insisted that the laser systems be readied. The other ship was to be eliminated and our mission to proceed as planned. Well, none of us listened to that. Only she has access to the logistical computer and it is that system that controls our injections. She was the last one in and paranoia did the rest, so she was placed in hibernation.

This entry might sound like the writing of a man in full control of himself, but it’s far from the truth. It’s taken me three hours to write these few words, my fingers shaking with every one. I can still hear Kate screaming when they forced her into her Can and I keep remembering blood on Jim’s door.

They’re going to go over there, to the other ship. Alex thinks there might be survivors but I don’t think it’s possible. How did they get here before us when we burned beyond light speed? What happened to them? I can’t help but think about those stories I read, about astronauts going mad on those long voyages. Has that madness begun here? Already?

I look out my false window, tuning the screen to see the Chinese ship in its slow tumble. Something killed that ship. Everyone on board is dead, I know it. I’ve never felt so sure of anything in my life. They are all dead, and if we go over there…

It’s almost funny that I came here to escape my nightmares. Here, the nightmares grow worse and come to life. Maybe I’m still asleep, locked safely in my Can? I don’t remember dreaming in them during training but we were only in them a short time. Is any of this even real?

Or is this the madness I’d feared?