The Endless Deep
Content AdvisoryThis piece contains depictions of a deep-space disaster and suicide. Please read with care.
They told stories, once, of how heartless the void of space is. Every folk-name for it evokes a cold and empty vastness: the Dark, the Abyss, the Big Nothing, the Endless Deep. Over generations of technological advancement and daily life out in the black, the foreboding had faded into the background of the public consciousness. Stardrives bent the cosmos around them and leapt across the lightless fathoms to the frustration of relativity, reducing what had once been decades or centuries of travel to perhaps a month at most. Ansibles burrowed laser light through spacetime to connect world after world at broadband speeds that left photons in the dust. The universe –or at least this small pocket of known space across which humanity conducted its business of living and exploring– had steadily become a closer and more hospitable place. But the horrible reality of the great void had never abated, and it was this reality that John Dunn was forced to face. Stardrives and ansibles could not save a man lost in the dark between stars. The micrometeorites had struck without any warning. The OSC Knossos had briefly dropped out of warp to perform a routine course correction. The heavy cargo hauler and her crew of sixteen were torn apart in mere moments, colliding with a cloud of wayward cosmic debris at nearly one-tenth the speed of light. Maintenance Officer Dunn was the sole survivor, having been on standby in the aft airlock. At first, John had considered himself incredibly lucky: he was already suited up when the habitat section lost pressure, and was shielded from the worst of the disaster by the vessel itself. Once he realized the Knossos and all its facilities were destroyed beyond repair, however, it became evident to John that he may have been the unluckiest bastard in history. John allowed himself a few moments to consider the situation at hand. All the atmosphere of the ship had been vented into space, leaving him with eight hours left in his suit reclaimer. The Knossos’ fuel was streaming out into space, the reactor was useless, and worst of all, the ansible array was unresponsive. Without the tremendous energies of the reactor to power the ansible’s wormhole generator he had no way to speak to anyone further than the pitiful range of his suit radio, and there was no one else around to hear that here. He was stranded halfway between Sirius and Sol. Rescue wouldn’t arrive for days even at maximum speed. He was doomed, and more alone than any human had ever been. There was only one way out. Turning the suit’s oxygen saturation to a lethal one hundred percent, John dutifully ignored the remains of one of his crewmates floating nearby and stared out at the stars instead. When he was younger, gazing up at them from the red sands of Mars, they seemed warm and inviting. Now, as his vision slowly faded, they only felt cold.