Plague Ships Vehicle in The Void Between | World Anvil

Plague Ships

Abandon All Hope...

Day 1
Caydie opened her eyes to strange, sterile walls. She heard the ship's engines all around her, a thick pane of mirrored glass separating her from the rest of the vessel. She lifted herself up as she stared at the mirror. She felt eyes watching from behind it.   She gathered up the pieces of her scattered memory. She knew little of how she got there, and even less about where she was. An image lingered, the last thing on her mind before waking: She remembered the missiles, her ship being torn apart on its first voyage.   The door opened, and a beast walked in. It stood at 8 feet with a slender, scaly body. She failed to learn more. Even if she remained conscious, biology wasn't her field. Regardless, she needed to find answers to more pressing questions. This moment served as a prime example. Why was this creature wearing an airtight suit?   Day 17
How many days has it been? Space made it hard to tell. Caydie tried to keep track. Every time it felt like an hour passed her by, she made a mark on the far wall. Over time, the minutes started to feel like hours, the hours felt like days. She stoped the tally at forty-five.   They tried to feed her, but what came through the strange mechanism on the glass was more than unfit to eat. It was meat, but not properly cooked. She tried to eat, but her body refused. She stopped when she felt she got enough down to stay alive. The smell alone was reason enough.     Day 34
She was wasting away, barely able to resist when they came for her. They entered the room holding some strange device. After that, everything went black. She woke up with another scar, this time on her leg. Her body was covered with them, now.
Imagine that moment. You know everyone's going to die. You're alone, not a single soul for millions of miles. Sending a call for distress is useless. Even if someone heard you, even if they could reach you in time, you're only making it worse. A plague ship is a ship where everyone, or almost everyone, on board has died due to a foreign contagion.   Plague ships are a horrifying reality for those who travel the void. The premise is already a horror story in the making. You pick up a distress call, or a rogue signal in the black. You investigate and find a ship, lifelessly floating along as Newton intended.   The monsters here are far too small to see. Exposure to contagions outside the evolutionary timeline of your species might not affect you at all, but if it does, you will almost certainly die of it. A terraforming event could stir a microbiome hidden in caves on a distant world. It dooms the colonists, and much more if it manages to reach another inhabited planet.


Plague ships are ticking time bombs, floating in the void. There is nothing that can really be done. Most insist on accepting your fate. Some follow the rules. They record messages for loved ones, hoping a kind soul will pick it up and take it where it needs to go.   They broadcast these messages and their classification as a plague ship, some taking the time to go on a spacewalk and paint "do not enter" on the hull. When they are done, they resign themselves to death with a clear conscience. This rarely happens though. People panic. They spend their final moments clinging to whatever hope they can. This makes answering distress signals complicated. There are lists of protocols to be used when doing so.   You enter in airtight suits, if you enter at all. This comes with rigorous decontamination procedures. Military vessels refuse to answer most distress calls due to their fear of plague ships. Civilians, however, are easily swayed. There are groups who dedicate their lives to handling plague ships, such as Caduceus. Every member is forbidden to even step foot on most planets, spending their lives in a self-imposed quarantine.
Day 43
caydie woke up with another scar. What were they looking for? Better yet, were they leaving anything behind? Humanity's first contact with an alien race began with war and experimentation. Caydie cried herself to sleep, like any other night. This time however, she heard a tap on the glass. She looked to the mirror and could see straight through. One of the creatures stood on the other side with its hand on the glass. She could see it without obstruction, the suit having been removed and replaced with what could easily be a military uniform. It slid something through the mechanism.   She stood and picked it up. It was dense, reminding her of the protein bars she ate on long voyages in the void. She opened it. It even smelled right. She devoured it, an act that would've been impolite back home. It seemed to fill the creature with pride.   She could hear it breathing, a wheezing she noticed every time the others come into the room. She assumed it was a biological function, something to do with their lungs. She pointed to the creature, then to the nutrient bar. Did they make it? It nodded. The act leaves her confused. Why would it know to nod? She later found out the creature had been studying humans for some time, and knew exactly how to respond. Now, it seemed, he was ready to learn more.     Day 57
She stopped crying at night, eagerly awaiting her forbidden visitor. He referred to himself as Rael, which could be a name, or possibly a word meaning doctor. They spoke in gestures, along with what little of their language they can comprehend. Despite his kindness, the others kept coming. She woke with a new scar on her head, and when the others went to sleep, Rael emerged. He pointed to Caydie, then to his head. She narrowed her eyes. Did they put something in her head? Rael coughed before speaking, hacking, wheezing, and desperate for air. "I'm sorry," he says. "We're dying. You're going to need that translator..."


I know. It seems a little extreme, but the consequences are reason enough. These foreign contagions can spread through a ship like fire. It can spread across a planet just as fast. A plague ship crashing on a planet is cause for concern, but many ships come with automated landing protocols.   These ships gently glide to the ground, land, and sit just waiting for someone to step inside. If those who do are allowed to leave, it could wipe out the population just because the planet happened to be in the way.   The consequences alone are reason to avoid these ships, but for some, it isn't that simple. Those ships could have technology, tactical information, resources, and who knows what inside. Take the right precautions, and this wealth could be yours.

Crime and Opportunity

Criminals exist in the void, and they are never opposed to stepping into a plague ship. They strip everything of value and leave, after thoroughly decontaminating it, of course. It's highly profitable, and it even earns some goodwill among local populations.   These scavengers are known for delivering transmissions to the family of those who died. The Sea of Names, a well-known pirate vessel, is notorious for this. This practice is exactly how it got its name.   Some groups are known to stash illicit goods and smuggle them on marked plague ships. People know about it, but the possible contamination is well beyond their pay grade. The only exception is when too many plague ships appear in a short period of time, making the illegal operations obvious.    


This organization, referred to as Caduceus by humans, is a multi-species initiative dedicated to clearing plague ships. The name doesn't truly refer to the organization, but instead refers to a human vessel within in. The SVN Caduceus is a medical cruiser created in Caydie's Cradle on Safeharbor. The vessel is predominantly crewed by humans. It's the first ever human vessel with more than one species on its crew.   The organization imposes strict rules of isolation. Every member is a member for life, and will never see the surface of a planet again. They do this because of the changes made to their physiology. Each member has a slew of vaccines pumped into their system. Their immune system is second to none. This allows them to work together without fear, but also makes them likely to be carriers of the contagions they encounter.
Day 74   Rael gasped her name, desperately fiddling with a panel on the outside of her cell. The commotion woke Caydie, and she rubbed her eyes, looked over, and saw the bodies on the floor, some taking their last breath. They choked and wheezed until it killed them. They brought something on board, something in Caydie's biology that humans haven't worried about in eons. It killed them all. Caydie remained huddled in the corner of her little cell. The door was open, but she couldn't bring herself to walk through it.   The bodies float from the floor to the ceiling and back down as hours pass. Rael's body hovered in the threshold, his arm out with a strange device in his hand. He died trying to give it to her. She isn't sure how long she waited.   She turned to a noise, a beeping coming from the nose of the vessel. She looked and saw the words on the screen: proximity warning. The translator did its job well. She rushed to the front of the ship, gathered as much information as possible, and found a strange slot in the console next to the pilot's chair. She rushes back to Rael, grabbed the device he tried to give her, and slid it into the slot.   The ship sprang to life, the engine's firing. She felt the weight as the ship propelled itself forward. Debris that would have ended her life passed by without a hitch. She studied every inch of the vessel, and finally found what she needed to get home. She stumbled on the star charts.

Cover image: by Adobe Stock


Author's Notes

Archivist Trigger Commands
The Archivist is capable of responding to "queries." Using the following commands, one can request information, and The Archivist will respond.

  • Pose Query: [insert topic here]
    Express desire for information
  • Focused Query: [insert topic here]
    Ask for more information on a subject related to a posed query.
  • Forced Query: [insert topic here]
    Demand an answer if refused and the Archivist is capable of answering.

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Dec 1, 2020 08:13

I believe "Kill it with fire" is an appropriate expression. I mean, maybe heat doesn't kill every alien contagion out there, but I'd say flooding the ship's vents with thermite is as foolproof a way to clean it as any. Then you can salvage anything you want from the ship's computer and engineering area.   Also, terrible as it is, I'd say that tactic is equally viable for occupied ships. Of course maybe the simpler option is to just vent the atmosphere and forego the risk of catching an airborne virus altogether.   The great thing you've established about this universe is that while some things are improbable, nothing is truly impossible. Any contact with an alien plague ship, no matter how foolproof, could end up with you catching the disease via eye contact or having your hazmat suits broken into by acidic spores. Even having contact with a new alien species is the ultimate risk.   P.S. if Rael's species wanted to find Caydie's reason for immunity to their affliction, they might try taking a look at the antibodies in her bloodstream. I assume their biology is different enough that they missed it.

Dec 1, 2020 08:25 by R. Dylon Elder

OOOOO yes. Kill it with fire is pretty accurate. Purging vessels is one thing, but that fear of "What if it won't work" is pretty good at deterring it. Venting the Atmosphere could sometimes work, but you never know. Some bacteria can actually survive in a vacuum... sometimes for years. It's spooky.     One thing I will say is that won't work too well on occupied craft. Your body head would light up the scanners like crazy against the void. Boarders are a problem, and there are scanners to prevent individuals from landing and just strapping a nuke to your hull.   OOOO yes indeed. This is what the Silieu were trying to do, but they didn't really have the facilities for it. On top of that, there would be... ALOT of antibodies there. We know our antibodies. I should look into it, but I imagine it could take some time to isolate the right one. In this case, Caydie would be just a carrier. The antibodies wouldn't attack what's in their body. At the same time, IDK. Hmmm... also yessss i REALLY like where the setting is going. It's getting super fun. Thanks so much man!

Dec 1, 2020 20:10 by Jacob Billings

Ooh. Very eerie. Sounds like your world is getting darker and more isolated by the article. It'd suck to have to resign yourself to isolation in fear of a plague trapped on a ship.   I like the text bits as they give a good impression of the feeling that comes with being trapped on a plague ship, however, I have 0 clue what that beast is and whether or not it's related to the plague so you might need to add a little something there.   Speaking of the opening, I think you probably need to look into removing the whole italics in the author section as the italics are fine when applied to the snippets but get distracting when I'm reading something like the protocol.   I do really like your style where you're almost narrative everything to the reader and the headers just happen to be in the way. It's pretty cool and gives your world a nice touch as it feels like you're reading the logs of everything that happen and it's super immersive.   Oooh. My comment style's coming in use. I see now that Caduceus are the beasts mentioned in the opening. Might want to allude to it, but it's whatever since it gets explained and gives a sense of mystery. It's up to you.   Frankly, I love the idea of the Caduseus and I would love to see a whole article on them as the idea of a group of people essentially immune to diseases but left alone because they may be contagious with even more is an interesting idea. I'd also like to learn more about the relationship between the humans and the image of the beasts in the ships as that was a bit short.

Dec 1, 2020 20:58 by R. Dylon Elder

HEYA! oh yes, dark and insolated is a thing. lol I do need to make things clearer cause technically these articles are out of order. Caydie is one of the recurring characters of the story. Everyone thinks she's dead. Her captors are actually the species that captured her. I'll make these things more clear. I need to fix the italics but havn't quite figured out how. XD i dont even know how its there in the first place. I will be doing an article on caduseus soon, as well. I like em.   Im glad the style works. Idk me and my wife are working on a radio drama of sorts for it, so the headers really are just in the way. It's written like a script, though it still needs touching up. We shall seeeeeee. Thank you sir, and is this the resonex i see in my notifs. OOOOOOOO

Dec 2, 2020 02:16 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

Well that's terrifying. I can't imagine the fear of knowing that you're going to die and being unable to do anything about it, on top of the isolation. A little close to the real world, at the moment.   I really loved the journal/diary sections. That did a really good job of setting the tone of the article.   I love that people who scavenge plague ships, who are probably not on the right side of the law, are also the people who bring back transmissions to loved ones. That's a great contrast.

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet
Dec 2, 2020 03:21 by R. Dylon Elder

Yeah, I imagined it'd hit close to home for alot of people. It did me as well. Itd be horrific. I'm glad you enjoyed those little bits. I thought they'd be a nice touch. Thanks so much!

Dec 4, 2020 04:46 by Grace Gittel Lewis

Hell yeah! A wonderfully terrifying reality of a world like this that seldom mentioned.

Dec 4, 2020 22:11 by R. Dylon Elder

I know right! I look at the galactic Senate of star wars and shudder XD thank ya sir.

Dec 4, 2020 06:15 by Wendy Vlemings (Rynn19)

This fits so perfectly within your setting. It makes sense that pathogens from another race can became a danger for your own race. I also appreciate we get to learn more about Caydie. I really feel for her, and for Rael and his kin.

Author of Ealdwyll, a fantasy world full of mystery.
Dec 4, 2020 22:12 by R. Dylon Elder

Caydie is a crucial character of the story overall. You shall see quite a bit of her in the coming weeks.

Dec 5, 2020 05:52 by Wendy Vlemings (Rynn19)

Very nice. I may be a bit slow to read through all the articles in my inbox though. Since for most of them I do want to take the time to read them properly, and there is just so many I want to read. :)

Author of Ealdwyll, a fantasy world full of mystery.
Dec 5, 2020 06:55 by R. Dylon Elder

i am in the same boat. No worries at all.

Dec 29, 2020 19:40 by Diane Morrison

I see why this is leading the field. It deserves to. This is amazing, and amazingly well-written. I am moved by your story. I hope you intend to write some novels in this universe, because I'm already a fan.

Author of the Wyrd West Chronicles and the Toy Soldier Saga. Mother of Bunnies, Eater of Pickles, Friend of Nerds, First of her Name.
Dec 30, 2020 02:47 by R. Dylon Elder

I plan on it, for sure. Thank so much for the praise. Im happy you enjoy it. Its one of my favorites!

Apr 27, 2022 02:11 by Lilliana Casper

Where did you learn how to engage people like this?! The mystery of Caydie's story combined with the plague ship info was amazing. I wonder where Caydie's going. Safeharbor, or Earth? Everyone on Safeharbor still thinks she's dead, so if she is trying for Safeharbor, she must not reach it.   Being on a plague ship sounds horrible. Imagine knowing you're going to die and can't see your loved ones no matter how close they are and you just have to accept that and die. That's absolutely devastating. And if you find a plague ship that still has living people on it, that would be just as bad. Wishing you could help, yet afraid you cannot.   Despite the darkness, this is an amazing article. Again, it was so engaging that I had to keep reading it. Keep up the good work!

Lilliana Casper   I don't comment much, but I love reading your articles! Please check out my worlds, Jerde and Tread of Darkness.
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