11 Jul The Happening of Crossroads
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"The Happening of Crossroads"Written by David Clark
Estimated reading time — 9 minutes
Interstellar Colony Collective Government File
Colony Failure Assessment Report Document 647
Report Date: 30th of May, 2374, 02:47 ET
Reported by: CFA Basic Data Collector Salma Chakroun
Information Status: CLASSIFIED – SUPERIOR OFFICERS ONLY
I have been active duty for 4 years and have completed 23 failure assessment missions, and I have never experienced or observed anything like what I am about to describe in the following report.
I and the crew of the CFA frigate “Aurora” were dispatched from ICC outpost Norma on a data recovery assignment to a fairly newly established planetary orbital colony. The colony station was named Hecate T-14-J, codenamed Crossroads. It is located in the center of the Scrutum-Crux arm, as the colony was testing the safety of locating closer to the center of the galaxy for reasons including radiation safety. However, my initial research before the warp acceleration revealed certain classified files that were above my clearance level. This was abnormal for me, as CFA agents have clearance to all failed colony information to assist with failure assessment (or so I thought).
Our location from the station was approximately 3000 parsecs, so we were required to take a hyper-extended rest two days into the warp acceleration. We awoke again two days from arrival, as is routine. I was debriefed on some of the finer details along with my team members on the nature of our assignment not long after we were awoken.
As our supervising officer informed us, no distress signal was dispatched from the station by a crew member, so mutiny or internal criminal activity were to be ruled out. What was of concern was that there was no contact between Crossroads and ICC outposts nearest to it for three weeks before our dispatch. Normally, due to communication interruptions such as solar activity or blackouts, communications can be down for a week at newer stations. An emergency response team is normally dispatched after a full month after a colony has been unresponsive. Then after the team gives the go ahead, we are dispatched to observe the colony and collect electronic data or information from any survivors. But, I assume due to the classified nature of the colony’s establishment, the emergency team was dispatched after that first week. The furthest our supervisor could go into detail was that a quick and strong energy signature was read from a radiation meter, and then communications were quiet.
While we weren’t offered the classified information that would help us understand the nature of the colony’s establishment that I was denied during my initial research, we were told that the emergency response team found that the station was left abandoned. To my knowledge, I have only experienced or read about a handful of CFA cases that were ruled as “colony abandonment”. Most had to do with external factors such as raids, while two were crew paranoia. In the moment, I was trying my best to rationalize the bizarre circumstances my team was faced with. A Foreign attack, internal crime or mutiny, and force of nature events were ruled out because of the fact that the station was reported to be in pristine condition. No internal or external damage was noticed by the emergency response team, and all equipment had even been left in places by the crew that was consistent with members dropping everything they were doing in the moment they deserted the station. Crew paranoia was a factor I was not going to rule out, because panic may have been a reason for leaving equipment out. But certain systems and programs needed regular weekly servicing or they break down in different ways. This could cause power outages or system failures, which can lead infrastructure decay or external damages on parts like solar flaps. It was puzzling, but I was confident that we were going to uncover details that would explain the desertion.
From there, we were told what to collect. Our team of five consists of members who are individually specialized in different areas. Jamal is our ecology scientist; Farrah is our psychology and sociology specialist; Henrietta is our media and communications tech; Norman is the forensic examiner; I am the basic data collection specialist. Jamal was to assist Norman in the location of organic evidence, and checking DNA results in the ICC employee database. Farrah was to speak with emergency response personnel to gather information on the initial observations of the colony. Henrietta would check all communication logs for inbound or outbound signals and messages received through the stations com-channels. Finally, and unsurprisingly, I was to conduct routine basic data collection in all personal cabin logs, as well as collecting meter and technical information from the bridge of the station. This was in line with every assignment I have been given before. Every time we’ve reached a planetary colony, solar orbiter, or planetary preliminary colony like this one, I have been tasked with the same things. If I come up with any unusual information, I report it to my supervising officer and then restart all systems on board.
Upon our arrival, something eerie about the ship was definitely apparent. The description of an abandoned colony that was in perfect condition seemed like it would be the least intimidating scene, but it felt preternatural. Normally, I arrive at a colony and I can tell that abandonment was going to be its fate. There are certain qualities that create that atmosphere. But this experience was exceptional. I was wary of separating from my team because of the air, the emptiness that was there. It was a ghost town. Not a trace of human presence that could signal an error of any kind. It seemed things had literally been dropped where they were being used. I walked passed a cafeteria kitchen on my way to a bunk section and it seemed that even ingredients in mixing bowls were left half mixed.
I have never been one to deeply question the circumstances I have been faced with. I have put my faith in the observable for all my life. But when the observable is unexplainable… I find myself at a loss of words to describe how uneasy I felt. But I digress.
I completed three of ten bunk sections when we started to experience radio problems. We have had instances before where external conditions can mess with our channels, and we normally ignore them. But those instances are partial interferences at best. This was complete cuts of contact for minutes at a time. Around the third time we re-established connection, I radioed to my supervisor to ask if I should skip to the bridge of the ship to check radiation meters that were consistent with solar interference. Due to the nature of the problems, he ruled against it. Henrietta was ordered to come back to the ship to make checks on com equipment and boost channels for better reception. Truthfully, I wanted to visit the bridge for more personal reasons. I was feeling increasingly uneasy about visiting the bunk sections. Every section I had visited thus far was so strange. None of the logs had revealed any information documented yet. The station had been operational for a year and three months, there had to be some sort of record kept on these logs. But the lack of information suggested two things: either the crew wiped log information in an attempt to cover details, or no information had ever been recorded.
Something made me feel as though the latter was what had happened. But this should not have been possible. There was no way an entire station could go over a year without logging any information.
For a while, things were quiet as I continued to walk through the halls of the colony. But after my seventh bunk section, things began to become strange.
I had gone a while keeping my thoughts to myself. I was embarrassed to admit that I might have the inclination that something unnatural was going on. I was sure to be heckled for that. I mean we are a group of people who are professionally focused on working with observable data, or at least making data observable in some way. But this, I thought, was beyond our abilities. How could a ship be brand new, untouched, and almost frozen in time?
I wanted to ask if anyone else had been feeling like they were being watched. I consistently felt the need to look behind me to confirm I wasn’t being followed. But I always felt something. It was always close but never directly behind me. I finally decided to open my mouth, planning to play it off like a joke if criticized. But when I spoke, there was no answer. I repeatedly called out for Henrietta, Jamal, Norma, our supervisor, but no one on our channel was responding. It could have been another radio cut out, I thought to myself. I was very wrong.
After feeling more alone knowing there was no one to talk to, I started to notice the feeling of being followed more frequently. I completed my ninth section, and I knew something was there at that point. Something was getting closer. It was ready to make itself known to me. The energy was there. It started in the shadows down hallways and shot through my nerves and made me shiver when I snapped around to look for it. Admittedly, I started to become anxious. I began walking faster down halls trying to look for the tenth section. I was breathing heavier and continued to try the radio for anyone. No answers still.
At this point, panic had started to set in. I was becoming turned around and unnerved to the point where I had taken far longer than I should have to find the tenth bunk section. When I finally found the staircase I was supposed to go down, I paused. I had not noticed before, but there was no power to this section I was about to go to. The stairway descended into darkness, only slightly illuminated by the red emergency lights that spun on the walls. I stood staring at the darkness for a few moments, sweating in anxiety. I felt the energy of whatever was following coming from inside it. I wanted to turn and run back toward the frigate and leave it alone. But I knew I would be dismissed if I wasn’t able to complete my data collection. I had to go down there. I had never turned back on any assignment for any reason before.
I started down the staircase, counting each step. 24 steps later I was down. I could only see about ten feet in front of myself, periodically being able to see further down as the emergency lights were spinning. I glanced back up for a second at the light above but started to inch along the wall toward the end of the hallway where the logging computer was. I began to feel the energy from before all around myself. It felt like something was wherever I wasn’t looking. I convinced myself the quicker I moved, the sooner I could get out of there and back to the Aurora. I began to step with intent toward the computer. I could feel something at the end of the hallway behind me. I broke out into a run in panic. I couldn’t bear to turn around. It was there. It was clear as day now but felt dark and glaring. I rushed to type in my login credentials and there was information left on the drive. Slightly amazed, I transferred the data to my drive and waited for disconnection. It started to make its way down the hallway. My body was now shaking and sweating. The stress was unlike anything I had felt. It was projecting it onto me like it was toying with me. The drive was only halfway downloaded as I began to have a breakdown. I started verbally whispering to myself for the drive to hurry up as if that was going to help. When it finished I could feel it directly behind me. My body chilled to the core. I couldn’t move. I could feel it on my neck, touching me with the intent to terrify me.
Then over the radio, I heard Henrietta say my name and I shouted and broke for the stairs. She exclaimed back at me, but I was in a dead panicked sprint back from where I came. I can’t quite remember how long it took, but eventually, Norman and Jamal ran into me as I turned a corner into a hallway junction. I was exhaustedly paranoid and anxious to the point where I was unresponsive and incoherent. They took me back to the Aurora, and after some calming down I explained what I had experienced to my supervisor. What made this all confusing was that he explained to me that there were no further radio cuts after Henrietta was sent to diagnose the problem. Furthermore, he was puzzled with my description of the tenth bunk section, saying there were only nine listed bunk sections in the station manuscript. I was stunned and at a loss to explain myself. Then I remembered the data I had recovered from the log computer drives.
We sat at inside his office at his computer and plugged in my drive. There were files that existed under correct names from the drive, but all information on them was corrupted. Still stunned and at a loss for words, I looked at my supervisor. He was staring at the screen with his hand on his chin. He got up from his chair and closed his door, directing me to sit on the other side of his desk. When I sat, he explained the classified nature of Crossroads establishment, which was experimental travel testing in regards to the use of wormholes for instantaneous travel between two points in deep space. Certified CFA agents had been sent with the emergency response team to survey certain information from the bridge computers and meters that would confirm a theory that ICC research specialists had devised. This theory would confirm the existence of alternate realities, and the ability to travel between them.
While I myself cannot come to a definitive conclusion about what I experienced on Crossroads, I acknowledge that what I have recounted was something unlike anything experienced before. I am a woman of the mindset that the universe and its mechanics are explainable by observable evidence. But what I went through was beyond my understanding, and will remain that way.
Upon ending this report, I would like to make it of note that I have noticed things that are out of place that weren’t before. My room is mine, but I have not been in this one before. Little details are slightly different, but most of all, one piece of evidence is glaringly obvious.
To the best of my recollection, my desk tag read Selma before we arrived, and not Salma.
– End Colony Failure Assessment Report –
Property of Interstellar Colony Collective Investigation Archives
Unauthorized viewing of classified documents is a Class A punishable offense.
Credit: David Clark