Humanity’s only hope of survival is to head for the stars and escape the harvesters’ grasp. Their latest ship is to colonize an earth-like planet in a new solar system. Despite their excessive research on space travel, the unknown proves far more dangerous than anticipated.
Transmit is February’s flash fiction that brings readers into the expanding Harvesters / Scrappers sci-fi horror universe. Enjoy the story in written word, audio, artwork and soundscape.
Alain McLeod of the EX—7006. I couldn’t believe the news when we found out that we could reverse-engineer the ships. I was a young buck then, still learning the ins and outs of mechanical work. The higher-ups let me have a hand in deconstructing the crafts. Lucky me. The thrill of heading for the stars was something humanity had hoped would happen for decades. A colonization mission would finally let us escape the grasp of those organ-picking gene-freaks—the damn Harvesters. Of course, we’re no fools and know the dangers of trying to leave Earth. Harvesters orbit the planet continually, waiting for us to stand out on the surface. Where else are they going to look to reverse-engineer their DNA? Their ‘perfect’ alterations backfired, and now they need us to try and save their skin. Serves them right.
I wanted to be on the first ship to leave the planet. The higher-ups needed me back at base. So, the years went by. EX—7006 worked just fine. Like myself, the whole crew is seasoned in dealing with Harvesters. Unlike space travel, which took us a bit to get our heads around. Sometimes I wonder if humankind is even meant for the stars. Then I remember we’re human. We defy nature. We’ve managed to surpass every environmental challenge, and space would be no different.
We’re the seventh expedition to leave the planet. Most of the previous missions involved returning home, allowing us to understand space travel further. We needed to get a sense of how our bodies handle cosmic travel and synthetic gravity. This mission is different because it’s a one-way ticket to a new world. There used to be more crafts in the fleet. Unfortunately, with every launch, we attract the Harvesters. The gene-freaks have gunned a lot of our ships down, killing people. Their deaths have not been in vain, for their sacrifices have brought us here. EX—7006 is leaving the solar system.
This log will be transmitted directly back to Earth. It will serve as a record for what we may discover as we pass into the unknown, despite the growing time delay that these transmissions will take. I’m sure Captain Ross would prefer if I didn’t send these, but what is he going to do? He needs me, and we’re limited on our resources.
On a personal note, let me tell you, leaving the Earth behind is unlike anything else you will ever see. The grey ball progressively gets smaller and smaller. Eventually, you lose interest. There was a subtle green hue that came from the kitchen window, slightly distorting the glass. I didn’t look directly out the window and didn’t think there’d be such a strange green glow out here in space. Maybe it’s the tint of the glass. Regardless, it was nice to get one last look at everything before we entered hibernation in the stasis pods. The ship is en route; autopilot is a go.
Alain McLeod of the EX—7006. We have woken from our stasis pods. It appears to be on time, matching the experiments we conducted back on Earth. The nausea is something else. We couldn’t train for it. Adapting to the simulated gravity can have strange effects on your psyche. The light-headedness does go away, and we can now see to our duties. We’ve all worked together to adapt to this new state of being, soaring through the cosmos. Captain Ross ensures that all procedures are followed, and everyone cleans up and is ready to initiate their tasks.
Some of us handled the awakening a little better than others. Poor Annie started to vomit intensely a few hours later. We were in the kitchen. She was gazing at the stars. She didn’t blink, nor move, looking a little too long. I asked her if she was okay. Her skin was pasty. All of us had pasty skin, but hers was more so. That was when she vomited, projecting it all over the glass. The doctor had to take her to the med bay. I’m sure she’ll recover soon.
Even with my mechanical background, I oversee counting the food rations. It’s a bland and straightforward task, which is welcome. Maintaining the ship’s thrusters can be a tedious job. Plus, we should track what we have for supplies. Chances are we won’t be going back to sleep. There’s only so much power on the ship, and we need to savour the energy as we enter this new solar system. The pilot and crew are already scanning through the digital maps to see where the planets are in orbit around the red dwarf sun. We’re staying on course.
A lot of smart minds back home have theorized the possible risks of travelling in space. There is plenty of talk about the psychological struggles that can occur when you’re floating around a metal tin can through a giant vacuum. We’re resilient. Hopeful, one could say, that we will find a new planet we can inhabit away from the gene-freaks. Most of us do not talk about the actual mission since it has been quite clear for decades why we’re leaving Earth. We have more important questions: What else might we find? And how harsh will the weather be? I admire everyone on the ship. The crew are capable people that are willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of humanity. We will escape the Harvesters’ grasp.
Captain Ross has been keeping a formal log of what has been occurring since we managed to launch from the tiny grey-and-brown dot. For me, this log is more about the realism of our trip. Let me tell you, sharing a toilet amongst the crew members can be a bit much at times. The same goes for hygiene powder. It works—mostly—but I can’t help but wonder what happens if we run out, or if we don’t land on a planet. Or how Annie is recovering. That was a lot of vomit, feeding my worries. Maybe that’s the psychological struggles of space travel. I’m sure the other crew members share the same thoughts; there’s no point in talking about it. We must work together.
Alain McLeod of the EX—7006. I believe about a week has gone by since we woke up in the stasis pods. The crew is getting a bit anxious to know when we are going to land. Captain Ross has assured us that everything is going according to the projected schedule. I was never a pilot, nor an astronomer, and couldn’t give any professional insight. One thing I did know, though, is if something is on a scheduled route, there isn’t much to control. I don’t know. Perhaps I’m overthinking it.
Annie hasn’t gotten better. The doctor assures us that it’s just a bit of space sickness—something like getting seasick. Seems odd. Not my department, though. I just ensure this hunk of gene-freak metal keeps humming smoothly. I clued in that the windows aren’t green-hued. It was coming from outside in the one kitchen window. I talked to Zoe, the astronomer; she says she’s unfamiliar with the phenomenon. Then again, she proudly has a bit of disorientation from being in a new solar system and seeing space from a new angle.
I haven’t looked out the window, but everyone says it is surreal. The green light has no focal point. It merely glows radiantly. I couldn’t tell you why I haven’t looked. I just haven’t. We try not to spread rumours around, as seeing something abnormal like this glowing green space only raises suspicion. Zoe says she is going to do some research and let us know what she discovers. Captain Ross ordered that we don’t over-talk the spectacle and hypothesize that it’s something it’s not. It’s not harming us or the ship.
We can’t help it. We’re only human. Hell, I remember as a kid all the rumours that were floating around about Harvesters. ‘Space demons’ is what we called them. Of course, that is all bogus. They are just a prime example of where trans-humanism gets you. As a kid, your imagination runs wild, and I don’t think that vanishes in adulthood. We just suppress it and accept reality as it is and express it through inventions, like gene editing. What if all of reality is taken away? That’s a big question. We’re not on Earth anymore and are soaring at immense speeds through space. The reality that we once knew is no more. Thinking this way sparks your imagination, for better or worse.
Log: 1—06 –3
This is Alain McLeod of the EX—7006. Zoe vomited, just like Annie. I saw her in the engine room, and she begged me not to tell anyone. I wasn’t sure why I agreed, but I said okay. She’s cute. I’m human. Oddly enough, that same day was when Captain Ross brought everyone into the meeting hall to discuss urgent matters.
The doctor was with him, explaining that if any of us feel nauseous, to report to him immediately. He said a virus may have been on board during the ship’s launch and has mutated. That’s the running theory. I don’t know; that’s the doc’s job. Captain Ross told the crew members to be completely transparent and share anything abnormal that they may witness amongst crew members. It doesn’t sit well with me. I know it is for the best of humanity. So, I asked Captain and the doc where Annie was. They said she was in the med bay. I found that odd and asked if they were hiding anything. Boy, let me tell you, that did not go over well.
After that speech, the whole crew was on edge. Zoe found me in one of the storage units where I was counting supplies. She looked sick. Her skin was moist, like she was sweating. She said there was something wrong with her. I told her that we needed to tell the doctor. It was for the safety of the whole crew. She said she understood and knew what happened to Annie.
Before I had a chance to ask, Tom and Lydia, Captain Ross’s top-ranked, came into the storage unit and seized Zoe. She shouted, “It’s in the damn hue!” as the two began to drag her away. She vomited again, and blood spewed onto the floor. I stood back, watching in disbelief. Zoe’s skeletal frame began to turn to mush, convulsing. She leaked red goo from her orifices. Her skeleton melted. She was only held together by her skin. Tom and Lydia let her go, and she fell to the floor like a folding slab of meat. Seeing a human being without the skeleton is . . . difficult to describe, and I don’t think I want to. I wonder if that is in Captain Ross’s official log. How did Zoe figure out that this was the hue and the doc didn’t, nor did Captain Ross? I’m starting not to trust the captain. Zoe is gone. She said it was the hue. How? Does it distort us on a molecular level? Is it . . . cursed? Shit. I don’t know; not my department. I liked Zoe.
Alain McLeod, EX—7006. Despite Captain Ross’s best efforts to keep command, the crew continues to talk about what happened to Zoe. I don’t bother, even though my mind is burning with questions. The doc had to have known. I don’t say anything, though. What’s the point? All it does is start rumours. Holding on to the past doesn’t help, either. Some of the crew members mentioned that the green space hasn’t left. No matter how far we travel, it seems to stay there, right by the kitchen window. I stopped going there and just started grabbing food from the storage unit. I’m usually not one for superstition, but this hue had me creeped out.
We passed several planets in the solar system. There had to be over a dozen. Zachary, the environmental expert, was telling me that we were headed for a sizeable Earth-like planet. He worked closely with Zoe in deciphering where exactly we were going before our ship left Earth. Apparently, the planet is suitable for us humans.
Shortly after Zoe’s demise, the crew demanded answers from Captain Ross and the doctor. The captain summoned everyone to the meeting room and finally came clean. He told us that Annie had died shortly after she vomited, and her symptoms matched Zoe’s. This caused an uproar. Most of the crew members felt betrayed by Captain Ross and the doctor. They were not honest with everyone. I don’t blame the crew. Keeping secrets was no way for us to survive space travel.
Captain Ross ordered that the crew continue to operate as usual. I spoke up, asking what Zoe meant that it is in the damn hue. Another crew member asked about the kitchen. The doc said to stay clear from it until the window is shielded. Just then, Zachary began to vomit. Everyone backed away, watching in horror. The man regurgitated his innards, like meat-paste through a tube.
Several other crew members began projecting blood. Gore was everywhere. I managed to avoid most of it, except for the splatters on my overalls. The doctor, too, began to vomit. Captain Ross, myself, and Lydia were the only ones who remained unaffected. Maybe they didn’t look at the green hue, either. We could only watch helplessly as our comrades fell before us. It didn’t take long for them all to stop vomiting, collapsing on the floor as boneless sacks of meat.
Lydia entered a full-on panic attack, asking what we were going to do. Captain Ross ordered her to remain calm as we attempted to come up with a plan. There were no more secrets now. We all had to work together. The captain mentioned that the doctor first thought the illness had something to do with the stasis pods. Today, after the doc began to feel some symptoms himself and died, he contacted Captain Ross and told him to shut all the windows immediately. The sickness came from the green hue. But it had all happened so fast, and he was unable to act in time. I regret saying it, but Captain Ross is not suitable for command. The argument got pretty heated, and a couple of fists were involved, too. Lydia calmed down, I got my frustrations out, and Captain Ross was finally transparent with us.
This is Alain McLeod of the EX—7006. I’m not sure how long these logs will take to transmit to Earth. Hopefully they arrive sooner than later. Everyone back home needs to know what happened. Humanity will no doubt build new crafts and send more people beyond our solar systems, away from the Harvesters. They need to know about the dangers that lurk in the unknown. We’ve shielded all the windows from the green light and can only presume that it is still there. Whatever it is has been clinging to the ship since we left our solar system. It’s hostile. Maybe we flew straight through it while in the stasis pods, like some space seaweed. Whatever it is.
We’re still on course for the large Earth-like planet and are all overworked. Three of us managing a ship the size of the EX—7006 is draining. We will make it to this new world. We will inhabit it and continue the colonization plan. This is what we are trained for—to scout out the new planet and bring more ships. I will send a log once we have reached the atmosphere. The three of us can only hope that the green hue doesn’t follow the landing pods. We won’t know until we try. We’re daring the unknown, as humans do.
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