…wherein they make themselves known…
‘Ground Control to SS Madura, please respond.’ Mike breathed into the microphone once more, the words growing wearier each time he said them.
The SS Madura was presently somewhere between Earth and Mars. The crew on board had stopped transmitting a few minutes ago following a loud crashing noise which often meant that something had gone wrong. The spacecraft’s current distance from earth meant that there was a delay of almost three minutes of transmission between them, which meant having to wait twice that time to hear a reply from the crew.
‘Ground Control, I can barely hear you, you’re breaking up.’ the response crackled through the loudspeakers of the control center to the collective sigh of everyone but the voice was hardly recognizable.
‘Welcome back sir, we lost you there for a minute. Can you give us a status report?’
‘We crashed into a projectile, a spaceship possibly, sustained damages to the outer hull and other critical components, life support system operating at fifty percent efficiency.’
The response had come back after four minutes instead of the expected six, which could only mean the spaceship was heading back to earth. Mike made a quick mental calculation of the speed it would take the spaceship to close the gap that quickly and almost fell on his back. That kind of speed was simply not attainable by the SS Madura.
‘Um, could you elaborate further on your last, you crashed into a spaceship, possibly? And please identify yourself.’
The response came after just two minutes now, the rapid manner of its arrival and the new edge in the voice making Mike feel as if the speaker was standing over his shoulder.
‘I can conclusively confirm that we did crash into another spaceship,’ the man still hadn’t identified himself and that bothered Mike very much, ‘The inscription on its outer hull read SS Madura. There’s a habitable planet nearby which we can assume was the launching point of the Madura. We’re heading there now to investigate.’
Mike looked around the room at the uncomprehending terrified faces of his colleagues looking up to him. His voice came out shaky and uneven as he whispered, ‘Oh my God!’