While on a routine deep-space mission to chart new territory on the frontier of unknown space, the starship Mercury stumbles across an apparent shipwreck in deep-space that poses quite a mystery for her crew. How had the Kilgary - a cargo ship last seen forty years ago light years away - got here before the Mercury? Why couldn’t the cause of death of its crew be determined? What was in the deleted log entry of the Kilgary – and why had it been deleted?
"Mercury Rising" is a preview of "Panic! Horror In Space" - a series of sci-fi-horror misadventures in deep space with the crew of the I.S.S. Mercury - which, of all the starships in the elite Terran Space Fleet, is probably the unluckiest ship in history! Not once, not twice, but many times over, the same hapless crew – give or take a few dozen casualties – on a supposed voyage of deep-space exploration, stumble into the weird, wake the creepy and trip over the downright terrifying and possibly even supernatural ...
The Terran starship Mercury sped through deep space at warp speed like a streak of extremely agitated light. Fatigued by the mere thought of all the exercise this evoked, Captain (junior grade) Stuart Flane was taking a well-undeserved rest in his quarters.
Lying face down on his bed – with his head underneath his pillow, Flane deeply pondered the term used to describe his lodgings. He stretched out lazily, groaning with irritation as his feet – which hung over the bottom limit of his bed and wrapped only in his regulation black nylon socks – touched the outboard bulkhead of his cabin. He concluded that, considering how small this ship was, the size of his quarters might well account for 25% of its total volume!
Knowing that the infinite emptiness of space, the galaxy and the immense nothingness that was just on the other side of the bulkhead and speeding past him at several times the speed of light, was just a few feet away from his – well, feet – made him feel slightly safer. For the moment. At least all of that wasn’t on the other side of his body, where his head was. Well, it was – but at least there was a lot more ship on that side. Well, okay he admitted to himself rather grudgingly – a little bit more ship. The Mercury was a Ningan class battlespringer after all, and they were rather small.
Like most ships of the Pioneer Fleet, I.S.S. Mercury was in unknown space for the purposes of making it into known space. Flane and his crew were quite good at that, by his own estimation – after all, they’d spent about 4 months exploring deep space without so much as a respite – or being allowed to return home for a little R.N.R. So they took it where they could find it.
“Captain Flane to the bridge!” A voice called over the intercom at his bedside. Flane stirred, pondering the degree of necessity that might motivate him to do more.
“Captain Flane to the bridge!” The voice called again. He surfaced through a gap in his pillows, blinking in the dim lighting in his cabin and taking a breath of slightly colder, fresher air, as he reached over for the intercom and pressed something in the hope that it was the right button for ‘Somebuddy make it stop! Geezuss!’
“I hope there’s a good reason to wake me up at two thirty in the morning, crewman!” He grunted.
“Uh – it’s two thirty P.M. sir!” came the amused reply. Flane cursed under his breath.
“Well – same thing!” He replied. It was hard to tell the difference by looking out a viewport – the stars were always out – and anyway, it was always dark. “What is it?”
“Something you should see, sir!” the crewman reported, “Unknown ship off the port bow!”
“What kind of ship?” Flane snapped. “What’s it doing?”
“Uhm… an ‘unknown’ ship?” the crewman on the bridge replied rather cheekily. “At the moment it’s just sitting there. You’d better come see it for yourself, sir.”
A few minutes later, Captain Stuart Flane arrived on the bridge of the Mercury. In case it hadn’t been mentioned before, she was a small ship, so the delay in his arrival couldn’t be explained by the journey-time alone, but suggested that the Captain had taken his sweet time about it.
The bridge of a Ningan class ship was typically small and relatively crowded with control desks for the helm, weapons array, communications, sensors, and a snug little command seat for the CO right in the center. In fact, the bridge on a battlespringer was so cramped that jokes abounded in the Fleet that it came equipped with bucket seats!
Presently – at least until Flane sat his rear end snugly in it – his was the only empty seat on the bridge. In the dimmed bridge lighting, he recognized the comtech officer, crewman McCall – and his sensor and weapons operators – two ensigns whose names he never seemed able to remember. Everyone’s attention seemed to be focused on the dark shape on the view screen at the front – Vic Chapman, his EXO, looked up as he noticed his arrival, but simply gestured at the screen without saying a word.
“What is it, Vic?” Flane asked his second in command. “Who are they?”
“Dunno.” Said Vic, a thin, clean-shaven man about 30 years of age, wearing Commander’s bars on his uniform collar. “We spotted an object in our flight path – it was motionless. When we got close enough to do a detailed scan, we noticed it was a ship and stopped. No energy output, no life-signs, and no answer to our calls.”