“Director Nova, we have an incoming message from NASA,” Agent Justin stated as he placed a hand over his earbud. “There’s an issue that needs our immediate attention.”
“NASA?” Gar tilted his head slightly to one side as he stood beside a seated Director Nova. “What might they want?”
“Good question. I suppose we should take the call and find out.” Director Nova tapped a few buttons on the arm of his chair and the screen displaying BADGE staff preparing the Stellar Arena for Chaos Wars faded to black. “Put them through.”
A blue backdrop with a white NASA emblem appeared with the image of a smartly-dressed African American woman’s torso immediately snapping into focus. Her name-badge clipped to her lanyard identified her as K. Vaughan, head of the space exploration organization. “Director Nova. We may have a situation that may need your agency’s intervention.”
“How may we be of assistance, Senior Advisor Vaughan?” Director Nova stood up from his seat and bowed his head respectfully to the woman’s image.
“An hour ago, several satellites detected a fluctuation in the coronal mass of the sun’s photosphere and signaled the potential for a massive ejection of stellar material,” she said as images of the sun’s surface appeared on the screen next to her in rapid time-lapse. The images depicted thermographic scans of reds, oranges, and yellows going dark until a distinct spot formed in the center. “Fifteen minutes ago, what we thought was an insignificant emission occurred.”
Agent Justin brought his hand up to cover his mouth, stifling an immature giggle.
Advisor Vaughan continued without reaction to his barely audible titter. “That was until we analyzed the image more closely.”
As she spoke, a final image popped up in the lower right corner of the screen and then swelled to fill the entire screen with an extremely zoomed in view of the dark spot. A small yellow-white ring became evident, with tinier wakes rolling out from it, indicating something exited the sun’s radiant surface. Flying out from the opening, a humanoid figure shrouded by an aura of brilliant gold ascended.
“Who could survive inside of that?” Director Nova muttered quietly beneath his breathe, his brows furrowed in pensive thought.
One of the robotic drones lifted its head from the separate computer screen it worked at. “There are several mophon-enhanced individuals who might be able to tolerate the environment of the sun. Beginning with Captain—"
“Quiet, Robot 3282,” Director Nova interrupted his computerized employee. “I only said that out of surprise. It isn’t everyday you see someone exiting the sun. Mrs. Vaughan, may we have the coordinates of this… being so we can track them for ourselves?”
Mrs. Vaughan reappeared on screen, as well as notification of an information packet being deliver from her. “That was our hope, Director. Your teams may be able to assess the nature of this much faster that we could. A potential coincidence bears mentioning. It may be nothing, but the coordinates of the event are in close proximity of where the crew of the Mercurial was lost years ago.”
“That happened hours before Legion showed up here on Earth,” Agent Justin said, highlighting a long-held suspicion held by many who followed NASA’s off-world endevours. “We never knew what caused their shuttle to cease communications. All six members of the crew died that day, or so was thought. Could there be a link?”
“You know I never doubt the potential for coincidence until I’ve proved every possibility has been explored,” Director Nova said. He stroked his goatee, deep in thought. “Those astronauts would never have been exposed to Morphons, which is the only way I can imagine any of them surviving, if this is one of them.”
“We may be receiving a chance to solve a mystery that has plagued our scientific community for quite some time,” Mrs. Vaughan said with a bit of excitement to her voice.
“Or it could be a new threat,” Director Nova swiped his hand toward the large screen. A computer-generated display of the solar system from the sun to Mars appeared. A dotted line overlapped with a solid golden line representing the flight path of the person, who could be seen to have rounded the planet Mercury. “Projections show that there is an 85% likelihood the targets patter will lead it into the Earth’s orbit.”
“Our system is currently tracking the unidentified traveler,” Robot 3282 said. “ETA thirty minutes until it reaches proximity to this station and Earth.”
“Gar, why don’t you head out in a shuttle and intercept it. Try to make contact with it,” Director Nova sat back down. “I’ll make some calls and bring in reinforcements just in case.”
“As you wish, sir,” Gar said and departed the command area.
“Robot 3282, try all standard frequencies to see if we can make contact with it in the meantime,” Director Nova settled back into his chair and started to scan through Advisor Vaughan’s data packet. “We also have the communication protocols for the original mission the Mercurial was on when it disappeared. Use those as well.”
“Affirmative, Director Nova.”
“Advisor Vaughan, we will keep you updated on what we find,” Director Nova said to the large monitor. “Thank you for bringing the situation to our attention.”
“Thank you, Director,” she said with a wide smile of gratitude. “I will pray for good fortune for us all while we wait.”
The screen went dark as she disconnected. Within seconds, a shuttle departed the opening of the shuttle bay and zipped away from the space station.
“Now, I suppose we wait.” Agent Justin stepped up to flank Nova’s command chair.
“Now we wait,” Director Nova replied coolly.
Why was there so much darkness in every direction? Absolute zero temperatures caressed skin than had not felt cold for… how long had it been?
Hands stretched out before them. Hands connected to wrists connected to arms to shoulders, moving as willed to move. Hands exposed to the unforgiving vacuum between planetary bodies. Hands that should be frozen and dead, but yet moved. Moved and felt no pain. There should be pain.
Why wasn’t there?
This wasn’t right. Answers were needed. Where could answers be found?
“Unidentified traveler. This is the BADGE Orbital Space Station. Are you receiving this message?”
A voice. Motion immediately stopped. Circling around, no other being was visible. Where did the voice come from? Sound doesn’t travel in space. But they heard a sound.
Should they reply?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. There was agreement. There was also silence.
Agreement between whom? There was only one being present.
Too many questions. Too many voices… Information was needed. Answers to so many unspoken questions needed to be rediscovered.
Must get home.
Eyes swept across the nothingness of space, searching for the path. Movement in the distance. Several large masses moved in deliberate patterns, circling the center.
Three. The third option was the destination. The third pattern was significant.
They returned to motion, hurling toward… toward…
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