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March 27th, 2022
The sphere of blue gleamed in the darkness. Everyone on the bridge stared in rapt attention. They had all travelled for so long, so far across the vast emptiness of space to find a new home, and now they had finally arrived. Lucilius knew everyone aboard the gargantuan ship was watching the same perfect circle of hope and life on screens across the ship. Lucilius ordered for his navigator to bring the ship into a geostationary orbit, and ready a scout transport for himself and two of his officers. Scans of the planet indicated lifeforms, and they would need to descend to the planet’s surface to take samples in order to verify the planet’s suitability. Everything looked promising.
Lucilius handed over command of the ship to his first mate. Everyone was in high spirits, and as Lucilius left the bridge, his common crew began to clap. The applause spread throughout the ship as they made their way to the transport bay. Lucilius couldn’t help but smile. The mission was nearly at an end. They would colonize the planet and finally have a new home.
The command crew watched their captain’s transport rocket away from the ship and grow small, descending into the the planet’s atmosphere. And then all were left to wait, just a little longer. Slowly, conversations breached the silence across the ship. It was just a formality - a routine part of the process. Surely nothing to worry about. And of course there was the greatest confidence in Lucilius’ first mate. He’d been trained by the best, and once they had their systems properly established on the new planet, the mining operations and developed spaceports, he would surely be awarded his own ship to command. People poured over geo-scans of the planning, puzzling out the best parts of continents - where to create the first outposts, and then cities, and eventually what coastlines would make for the best beach homes. The excitement radiated throughout the people.
The scout mission was projected to take a day, maybe two at the most, so after the initial excitement, everyone started moving back to their routines and tasks. It was this fact that made Lucilius’ first mate nearly fail to notice, and look on with disbelief when he saw the scout transport emerging from the distance, like a spec in the planet’s atmosphere growing fast enough to indicate and incredible speed.
Lucilius’ first mate notified the transport bay and then ran from the bridge to meet them. When the transport door opened, and no one stood in the threshold, the first mate stepped in. Against the wall were the door officers. One quietly weeped and the other one looked as though he were in a state of shock, his eyes wide, his skin pale. At the controls Lucilius sat, slumped with his face cradled by a hand wrapped around his eyes, a thumb digging into his temple.
“What happened?” The first mate asked.
Lucilius sighed, “Get them to sick bay immediately.”
“Have they been exposed? Do we need to do a full lockdown?”
“No,” Lucilius said, “Just get them to sick bay.” He stood and walked past his first mate, and as he made his way back to the bridge, he ignored the many waiting eyes of people who wanted an answer, a verdict about their chosen destination after such an immense trip. But Lucilius ignored them and hurried back to the bridge. The hiss of doors opened and Lucilius retreated into the comfort of the bridge with his obedient command crew. He sat, and rubbed his eyes once more and spoke.
“Navigation, what’s distance and ETA for that other planet we looked at?”
“Yea, sure,” Lucilius snapped.
“Well, uh -“ the navigator stuttered. “That planet is 127.8 lightyears away. And the time for tra-“
“Just go, let’s go,” Lucilius said.
“K-1-zero-whatever, there, let’s go, now.”
“Yes sir,” the navigator stated.
Immediately the gleaming blue orb of life in the large window began to shift from view, and the vast emptiness of space filled the view.
The hiss of doors sounded again and Lucilius’ first mate joined the bridge. He approached Lucilius, confused. He’d never seen his captain like this - so distraught, uncommunicative.
He knelt beside his captain.
“Sir, what happened? What did you see?”
Lucilius sighed, still holding his face.
“Spiders. Lots…. Of big. spiders.”
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