the mission


the mission

“Systems have been triple-checked and are stable, captain,” Hassan, the system engineer, announced. “We are ready to enter deep-sleep mode.”

“You heard the man,” Yoon, the captain said, smiling to the group, “it’s time for us to take a nap.” The rest of the crew smiled back at her.

Amongst the crew, there is the doctor (of medicine as all members have PhDs), Zhang. The mechanical engineer, Cruzas. The astrophysicist, Siregar. And me, the biologist, Linden. We are on an exploration mission.

In 2132, humanity’s hope of settling on Mars was dashed when it was discovered that the artificial global-warming systems had been set up slightly incorrectly and malfunctioning for decades without our knowledge. Ironically, we were destroying our second planet the same way we did the first.

It was calculated that we had about 100 years or so before we reached Earth’s 2075 levels of CO2. The older scientists insisted that we had to find a new home quickly. They had desperation in their eyes. All of us grew up on Mars. We are all in our late twenties, and the first generation of new scientists (since The Collapse). Many of the older scientists have died. It is up to us.

“Hey, don’t snore okay?” Siregar joked with me as we were walking from the bridge. She is always flippant in tense moments like these. I knew that the reality is that she is just as nervous as I am. “Everyone, make sure to empty your bowels before entering the sleeping chambers,” Zhang called out to us. I guess nobody would want to clean that up.

It is now 2145, and this mission is called New Hope. It sounds a bit silly, but the first ship that took scientists to Mars was called Hope. Now, we are moving into the next galaxy. We don’t even have a planet picked out that we are sure we can stay at. We are basically stabbing in the dark.

The sleeping chambers are a little bit bigger than what we saw in the movies, but not much bigger. We are able to move around inside but not stand up. Not that we will be doing much moving. There are simple straps with buckles that we attach to ourselves after closing the lid to help ensure that.

Yoon is going from chamber to chamber to check that everybody is ready. We all check our systems and confirm once again through the radios inside the chambers that we are ready to start.

We hear Yoon climb into her chamber and shut the lid. “Okay everyone, I’m going to set the countdown. Remember, the AI systems may wake you up in the case of an error and then you can just try again. Otherwise, I’ll see you guys in a few years.” “See you guys in my dreams,” Siregar jokes. “I hope not, I’m looking forward to a little bit of a rest from your jokes,” Cruzas teases her.

At that moment, a countdown starts. 10… 9… 8… 7…





Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I feel groggy. All of my dreams quickly dissipate. I try to move my hands to unstrap myself, and I feel noticeably weaker than I did just a few seconds ago. Was it a few seconds ago? No, I start to remember, it was 15 years ago. The preservation systems slowed down muscle atrophy, but nothing is perfect. I feel like I can’t breathe in here.

I open up my chamber. I can barely stand and try to crawl out of it.

Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I look around. All of the other chambers are closed. I guess I’m the first one up. The beeping continues, but I’m not the systems engineer. I stagger to the main panel and read the output on the screen.


Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I realize now that the AI system must have woken me up. I go to the bridge and check the system. On the panel, it says that the year is 2190. I look at it again. “That’s impossible,” I say. Speaking feels strange.

Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I tap the screen and stop the alarm. I look up the navigation system data. Yep, we overshot with a shot of anxiety. There is a simple visual which shows that we went past our target years ago. Did the AI system do a detailed scan and find that there was no possibility of life in our initial target? I look again and realize that we are not even in the galaxy that we aimed for.

I tell the AI to open the protection shutters on the windows. Again, speaking feels foreign to me. Looking outside, I see three large planets. One of them looks very close to us, and the other two are off in the distance. It’s possible that one of the other two is a moon. I’m a biologist, not an astrophysicist. I realize I should wake up the others.

I go to Captain Yoon’s chamber first. I press the manual override and start the waking system. It’s strange that it hadn’t started already. After waiting about 5 minutes, I open up the door. She is still not moving. I try to wake her. I check her pulse and realize in horror that she is dead. Her body has been preserved, but her eyes are glazed.

My breathing begins to become more rapid. It’s hard for me to stay calm I I start to panic.

I stagger quickly to the other chambers. I override their systems.

It’s the same for all of them. Every time I open up the door, one of my colleagues that I’ve been training and living with for years is dead. Some of them have foam in their mouths.

The panic is increasing. I hobble as quickly as I can to the bridge. I fall down a couple of times. I’ve never had such weak muscles.

“AI system, I need to set an alert.” The words feel like sandpaper in my mouth.

“AI system, I need to-” like machinery that has been seized by rust.

“Alert activated. The alert has been sent back to Mars. All astronauts have died except for the biologist, Linden. Mars will receive this message in 7 years, 3 months, 14 days, 6 hours and 19 seconds.”

“AI… what happened?” I get a glass of water.

“There was a chamber error 2 hours and 32 seconds ago. Respiratory systems failed. The reason for the failure is unknown. Possible particle buildup in breathing systems.”

I realize that they all suffocated, and I would have suffocated too if I hadn’t woken up. Why did I wake up?

“AI, why weren’t we woken up at the correct time?” I can feel my voice rising.

“The galaxy that we planned to visit showed no signs of life or potential for life. Mars was notified. I was instructed to conserve fuel and keep going.”

“AI, where are we now?” I feel like a child on the verge of tears.

“We are in galaxy 1728. Scans show that there is potential for life and or living beings already.”

“AI, can we turn the ship back?” I feel the panic increasing.

“No. That would go against the mission. Moving the ship back at the same rate that we came here with the fuel that we have left would cause us to arrive after the fall of Mars. Your mission is to find a livable planet and relay that information.”

I knew that that would be the answer. I’m going to die alone. Before that, I alone have to save humanity.

Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I look at the screen.


“AI, what is happening, what is going on?” I feel a tightening in my chest.

“The rear hull has been breached. The ship is depressurizing. Something ha entered the ship.”

“What, what do you mean?!” I cry with an atavistic dread.

Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I start to feel like I can’t breathe. It is getting very cold. I know from my training that I likely only have a few minutes to live. I hear a sound. It is something I’ve never heard before. A noise that causes my spine to tingle in a horrible way.

I turn around slowly. I see something… I can’t describe it. There is a shape, moving, but it’s more like a shadow. It moves and jilts and spasms.

I start to scream as the shadow moves towards me. It feels like it is already inside me while being far away at the same time. It enters my mouth as I scream. I can’t scream anymore.





Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I hear the chamber door open. I look up groggily. I see Siregar smiling down at me. “Wake up, sleepy head. Wow, you look like you just had a bad dream. I don’t even want to talk about the dreams that I had,” she said while extending her hand to help me up.