“IKV Ducornet – mayday, mayday, mayday – phasedrive damaged – losing oxygen – seven of ten decks decompressed – mayday, mayday, mayday.”
Eyes shift left– The Ducornet hangs in space like the shattered husk of a glass bell. The distress call rises and falls, repeats endlessly until a thought silences the audio. Sensors date the damage, the scarring on the hull. One hundred and seventeen years. You close your eyes, breathe a tired sigh. Everyone aboard is long dead by now. Nothing left, no one to save.
You launch a mote-probe in the hopes of finding something, anything that might give some hint of what happened to the ship, but there's nothing. Chunks of frozen meat and charred steel float in a grizzly mess that speaks of sudden decompression, of some great force ripping through the skin of the ship and eviscerating everything. Most of the crew died fast, died probably without even realizing what had happened. The rest– well. . .
Starvation in close quarters never ends well.
In one of the sealed sections of a deck near the bottom of the ship, you find a room that looks less like a barracks and more like an abattoir. On the wall, scrawled in dark and flaking blood, a single word stands out, disturbing in the clarity of the work, in the opacity of the meaning.
Nothing else stands out. There are no logs, no notes. The ship's database and integrated intelligence are both fried, unrecoverable, and any personal crew data was lost when the local cloud went offline. Whatever happened to the Ducornet, there's no record of it, no way to tell whether it was the victim of an attack, an accident or equipment failure. Tired, fatigued by what you've seen, by the lack of answers, you make a notation in your database, spin up the phasedrive. A few more seconds of watching the Ducornet is enough. Thoughts trigger controls, and then you're gone, on to the next point of interest.
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