This is the beginning of my novel Derelict, a sci-fi thriller
| She hung dead in space, three hundred thousand kilometers from the nearest outpost. Her life support systems had failed three standard months ago, and her crew floated lifeless within her frozen corridors. Her Interior temperature was only fifty-seven degrees Kelvin, the coldest any object could get this deep in space. The ship was oriented roughly towards Sol, the central star in Earth’s planetary system, and she crept along at a mere one hundred kilometers per hour.
Her name was Lady Kerrigan, and she was a research vessel sent into deep space to study the effects of gravity wells on planetary systems. She is the only ship to have ever left the borders of the Milky Way Galaxy, and gone into the area of space known as the void. She made that journey forty-seven years ago in the year 2347 A.D., or as was the common designation at the time, After Colony Two-Seven-Five. After Colony was the designation given to all years following the anniversary of the founding of Terra Prima, the first successful Mars colony. Kerrigan made her maiden voyage in the year After Colony One-Three-Four, and was sent to the small planet Pluto to gather solar radiation samples.
The Voyage was a disaster. After passing through the asteroid belt, Terra Prima lost communication with Kerrigan. A few months passed before Terra Prima received any information from the outer sector, until intermittent short burst, low frequency transmissions came from the Saturn Orbital Station. The scrambled transmissions consisted of both human and inhuman screams, along with someone speaking in Old English tongues. A few weeks after the transmissions were received, all communication was cut off. Terra Prima gave the Kerrigan and her crew up for dead, until she appeared on short range radar, nearly ten years after she was documented lost at sea. She was requesting docking clearance.
When Kerrigan docked at Terra Prima’s orbital station, she was empty. Her crew was gone without a trace and her logs were wiped clean. The only evidence she had ever left Mars was that her odometer showed that she had traveled twice the distance to Saturn, meaning she had made a round trip.
The company who commissioned Kerrigan for her missions, and built her was known as Artac Industries, a research company founded a few years before Terra Prima. Artac was known for less than legal operations in the outer sector and the asteroid belt. Artac owned many of the iron and iridium rich asteroids in the belt and claimed they were used for research, yet investigations showed much of it being sold to arms manufacturers on Earth. The founder of the company was Hideo Toriyama, and had been an arms dealer on the black market during the revolution of Earth, twenty years prior to the founding of Artac. Toriyama had many enemies, both in space and on earth.
Toriyama was killed in a car accident three years after Artac Industries was founded. It was later proven that the accident was an assassination ordered by the fledgling government of Terra Prima. The reason for the assassination according to Terra Prima records stated that Toriyama had been using Artac Industries to smuggle iridium and uranium through Terra Prima to escape the fees imposed by the United Earth Democracies customs agencies. Terra Prima wanted no part in the black market, so a small group of militiamen decided to take him out. Their plan consisted of having one of the men, who was never named, follow Toriyama from the Artac offices in the central dome of Terra Prima. His orders were to dispose of Toriyama and the vehicle when it was safely away from the main city.
Along with being a businessman and black market salesman, Toriyama was a master shipwright, and had designed a revolutionary ship he believed would one day change the face of space travel. He named his design Kerrigan, Lady of the Blades. The ship’s main drive engine was not an engine at all but a device that created a quantum singularity, which in essence froze time outside of the ship, so the ship could travel distances never thought possible instantly. The only obstacle he faced in his design was how to slow the aging process within the ship which would be so rapid a person could have three generations of children in the span of a few nanoseconds of universal time versus relative time.
* * *
A light blinked intermittently on the console on the bridge. She was being hailed.
Outside the derelict Kerrigan a small salvage ship was docking. The vessel was attempting to attach to an airlock towards the stern of the Kerrigan. Completely surprised by the small ship, she was unable to activate her defenses to repel it. She noticed an insignia on the salvager, which looked familiar to her database; it was a large scorpion grabbing the head of a rattle snake with its pincers, and its tail driving deep into the rattler’s skull. The smaller vessel bore the name Ivory Tusk. Kerrigan was perplexed as to why a ship would be docking on her so deep in space.
* * *
Toriyama’s successor, Dr. Albert Long found the designs for the Kerrigan shortly after Toriyama’s untimely demise. Dr. Long was a shipwright as well as a doctor of the paranormal sciences, and astronomical phenomenon. Long grew to be fascinated by the Designs of the Kerrigan’s drive system, which he came to call a Quantum Redshift Drive, or QRD. Shortly before Long was able to solve the problem of time acceleration with the QRD, two chemicals mixed after being knocked over by one of his lab rats. The resulting gas was extremely toxic, and killed Dr. Long instantly. The investigation into his death revealed no foul play, and was ruled purely accidental.
Long’s research however was not lost, as he kept both audio and written records of all of his experiments. His research was found approximately 50 years later by a young astrophysicist named Christopher B Kennedy, who was working on his PhD in the field of astrophysics and sub-light space travel. Kennedy was a genius when it came to sub-light acceleration drives, and took immediate notice of the QRD designs. Kennedy, using the designs he had found, published his thesis statement on how to travel across the universe faster than the speed of light, without breaking the light barrier. Ridiculed by his colleagues for publishing a thesis on the impossible, Kennedy went to work building the drive and the ship to house it in order to prove himself right. He named the ship Lady Kerrigan.
* * *
“Ok boys, lets suit up and board this cold bitch,” yelled Barry Richardson, skipper of the small vessel Ivory Tusk, and lead man of the salvage team. “I want to be off of this hunk of junk by 1800 standard. You hear me?”
“Sir! Yes! Sir!” the Tusk’s crew sounded off in unison.
This was the Tusk’s third salvage mission this month, and her crew was exhausted. The Tusk and her crew had been commissioned by Artac Industries to rescue Kerrigan.
One of the two female crew members, Holly Johnson, stood up to address the crew, “Listen men, we cannot take this ship lightly, she has been floating dead for nearly four months now, and the internal readings show her to be ice cold. There is ice covering every surface, and most likely crystals floating around. Do not touch anything on the ship until we bring it back up to temperature, and be careful with your boots. Do not step to heavily on any surface, unless you want your foot to go through it and to the next level. Any questions?” Johnson was the lead engineer and technician, and briefed the team before every mission.
“Yeah, how long till we board her?” Garret Redfield, head of the material salvage team, asked, knowing full well that they wouldn’t board until everyone was suited, and the ship was brought to a livable temperature. It would take at least two hours for the ship to reach that temperature.
“Damnit Redfield, cut the shit!” Dr. DuGalle yelled. DuGalle was the EMT on the crew, and handled everything from the basic colds to amputations. DuGalle and Redfield were separated by about 20 years, yet acted as if they were brothers separated by little over a year. DuGalle was the oldest member of the crew at 48, yet was far from the father figure on the ship.
“Hold it guys, someone is hailing us,” Richardson yelled back to his crew.
The Tusk’s communications expert, Clarice Aran, moved over to the communications console, donned her communications unit, and patched the message through bridge’s sound system. “Attention Ivory Tusk this is the Lady Kerrigan, please disengage your ship from or hull, or we shall be forced to fire upon you. Thank you.” The voice that accompanied the message seemed vaguely female, but the accent seemed forced, as if a program had read the message.
“Hey skipper, isn’t that ship supposed to be dead?” Redfield asked.
“Don’t worry, she is, though I do wonder why she hailed us.” Richardson responded.
“If she is dead, how did she know the name of our ship?” Redfield interrogated, he was getting disturbed by the hailing. Redfield had read up on the history of the ship long before the mission was even assigned. The ship was always considered a ghost ship, and a cursed one. Everyone who came in contact with the ship usually ended up dying within a year of the contact. At first no one believed the claims of people who knew ht was happening, the first death being that of Hideo Toriyama, the original designer of Kerrigan, then the death of Dr. Albert Long, the one who helped design her drive engine.
“Garret, we hailed the ship on the way here, we projected the Tusk’s name and serial in case there were any survivors. The program that just hailed us most likely took our hailing information and responded with it. Don’t worry about it,” Holly responded, with face confidence. She was weary as well.
Alright boys, we know that this ship has a bad rep, but get over it! This is our chance to make it big and upgrade the Tusk here, maybe even outfit her with some good defenses!” Richardson exclaimed. Barry was tired of having low yield missions.
“Sir, we are being hailed again!” Aran yelled.
Barry responded simply with, “Patch it through.”
“Attention Ivory Tusk this is the Lady Kerrigan, please detach your ship before we must fire on you. This is your final warning. Disengage. Thank you.”
“Damn that bitch, she’s getting annoying. How’s the temperature Holly?” Barry responded to the hailing.
“We are at approximately two hundred and eighty degrees Kelvin sir, she’s warm enough to board, but still be careful.”
“Alright boys, let’s go!”
Kerrigan was still wondering why her defenses hadn’t gone off, and why this ship hadn’t disengaged. She could not allow anymore people to board her. She was tired of having her crews perish, and could not bear to have another meet their unfortunate end.
* * *
In the year After Colony One-Two-Five, construction on Lady Kerrigan began. She was being built in orbit above the mars colony Terra Prima, by Artac Industries. The leader of the Project, Christopher Kennedy, died in an accident shortly before completion. He had been helping affix one of the many gravity sensors to the lower hull when his magnetic boots malfunctioned. As he was ratcheting the sensor to the hull, the gun kicked back, and sent him flying backwards. Before he could activate his suit’s thrusters, he hit a sensor array that was being moved into position towards the stern of the ship. He was impaled through the abdomen on the main receiver. Unfortunately for him, he did not die instantly, for the sensor missed vital organs. He suffered for nearly seven minutes as his suit rapidly depressurized and then exploded within his suit. Seventeen other men and women died while working on the Kerrigan. Stores started floating around the colony about her being a cursed ship, a killer. Artac Industries did not care, they wanted their ship to be completed.
Kerrigan was finally finished in October of After Colony One-Three-Three, and sat in dry dock for nearly six months before Artac Industries could find anyone who was willing to crew her. The crew for her maiden voyage consisted of both criminal scientists, as well as respected ones who just wanted to make a name for themselves. Sadly, none of them would survive. Shortly after she returned from her maiden, Kerrigan was put back into dry dock to determine what had happened to her.
Rumors started to abound again after she returned. Many urban legends started about Kerrigan. One of the most infamous legends was that she was a ship designed by the devil in order to trap souls in hell. The largest religious group at the time, the Neo Christian Coalition, used this legend to try and decommission the Kerrigan and get her sold for scrap. Artac Industries would have no part in that. Her second voyage would turn out to be slightly better than her maiden.
Kerrigan’s second voyage began in the year After Colony Two-Seven-Zero, and she was headed towards the edge of our galaxy to see if it was possible to go into the area of space known as the void, between galaxies. Using the QRD, Kerrigan and her crew were able to reach the edge of the Milky Way in two years. The crew then decided that they should let her normal engines power her the rest of the way. It took them another 18 months to travel past the edge of the galaxy into the void. Using Kerrigan’s rear camera, they took video footage of the edge of our galaxy, something no one had seen before. Then disaster struck.
According to the logs found on Kerrigan when she returned from that voyage, her crew had started seeing things. One of the crew members whose name was stricken from the records admitted to seeing what he thought was a demon. Others claim to have heard the unholy screams of a creature that called itself Grendl. The visual logs of the bridge showed the most horrible sight. The crew’s captain, whose name was also stricken, picked up a rifle, which were contraband on any ship, and fired at something only he could see, hitting tow of his crew members and puncturing the hull. The camera followed the captain as he was sucked onto the small opening he had made in the hull, and showed him slowly being sucked out into space, through a hole that was slightly larger than seven-point-six-two millimeters in diameter.
* * *
The airlock slowly opened into the umbilical that was connecting the Tusk to the Kerrigan. The Umbilical chamber was only about one hundred feet long, but was the most important part of any docking procedure, and if it was lost, or you got stuck in it, you would most likely die before making back to your ship. Barry Richardson was the first one to reach the airlock on the Kerrigan and input the code he was given by Artac Industries which acted as a skeleton key for the ship.
“Depressurizing airlock, please standby,” the metallic voice of a distant computer rang through the communication unit in Barry’s suit. Barry watched with somewhat of a child’s glee as the air from inside the ship seeped out in a small puff of steam. They were in.
“Alright boys, lets get inside her!” Barry yelled to the rest of his team. The initial boarding crew consisted of Barry, Holly, Redfield and DuGalle. Aran stayed back on the Tusk to monitor communications. Aran hated going onto derelicts, the deathly silence of them scared her more than she thought should be possible.
Kerrigan noticed a strange change in her internal temperature; she was at a temperature of nearly three-hundred degrees Kelvin. She was also reading a rapid temperature change in her aft sections, and the depressurization of one of her airlocks. She was being boarded.
Barry and Holly were the first inside Kerrigan and they ran into one of her crewmen. His nametag read “Christopher P. Jackson, Chief Engineer Level 7 Clearance.” Jackson floated slowly by Barry and Holly dripping wet from the rapid increase in temperature. His eyes which had shattered inside his skull slowly oozed down his face, still more slush than liquid. Holly turned away disgusted, trying not to vomit inside her suit.
“It’s ok Holly, he can’t hurt you, and he’s no longer in pain. Don’t let him get to you. You’ll be fine, but we do need his badge, it might be needed to get into the engine room.”
“Engine room? Why do we need to go to the engine room skipper?” Redfield questioned as he came up behind them. “Can’t the Tusk haul her back to Mars?”
“Garret, we are three hundred thousand kilometers away from the nearest outpost, and nearly three light years from the Terran system. We can pull about seven hundred k/ph pulling a ship like this. It would take us years to reach mars. Her engines will allow us to go nearly three hundred thousand k/ph. It will take us months this way, besides, what are you chicken?” Holly responded, only a bit curtly.
“Lets just make nuggets out of him when we get home if he is,” DuGalle retorted as he met up with the crew.
“Let’s get a move on, its already 0800, and we have ten hours to get this wreck working and on her way to mars,” Barry stated.
Hearing her new crew about reactivating her engines scared Kerrigan. Her last crew had died shortly after starting her engines. She decided she had to stop them.