3 Million Light Years From Home
By Michael A. Cantu
Stars streamed by, ribbons of light bent by the gravity drive as it
propelled the saucer through the wormhole toward it's destination: a distant
inferno in the center of a system far removed from their own, where only the
third planet was known to hold any discernible life. One of the crew,
slender, grey skinned and equipped with two bulbous eyes, peered into the
biohazard containment area as the soft hum of the engines kept a steady
Izo, was his name, Lieutenant Izo or at least a rough translation of it into
English. He had volunteered for this mission, one that most saw as a simple
dumping procedure into the waste disposal unit that was this systems sun;
however, he and only one other among the crew knew the gravity of their
situation. They were in charge of disposing of a biological weapon that was
their civilization's greatest folly, something so hideous, so destructive
that they had unanimously decided that it should never be used, because if
it was used, how could they control it? How could they stop it?
Izo sighed as he leaned against one of the panels monitoring the containment
field and the vitals of The Thing within. He wanted nothing more than to
jettison the cargo and decontaminate the holding cell as quickly as they
could and return back to the homeworld before anything else could go wrong.
Why had the geneticists ever devised something like this. He remembered the
scouting expedition which brought them in counter with a creature which was
completely amorphous, in it's original form it resembled nothing more than a
mass of intricately woven tentacles connected to a central mass. The
scientists who discovered the specimen, on one of many journeys he
commanded, found out that the creature had the uncanny ability to ingest
whatever lifeform it chose and copy that preys genetic makeup. It's
camouflage was only superficial, it never acted like the original creature,
it merely looked like it just long enough to allow it to escape detection or
allow for an ambush; however, science marches on, and often takes what
nature has made quite lethal and "improves" on it.
Some years ago, Izo's race had engaged in a vicious war with a completely
hostile race of galactic nomads know as the Akai. The Akai had all but
decimated the homeworld when the scientists had perfected the lifeform for a
more military purpose. Close to the brink of extinction, the governing body
decided that only one of the two bioweapons were to be released amidst the
Akai fleet. The war had ended in less than a week once the warships came in
contact with the weapon. He remembered the cleanup operations which
required the systematic destruction of all Akai warships as well as any
jettisoned pods which may have harbored any infected personnel. The mop up
spread them far from the homeworld. At long last, the last of the modified
lifeforms was about to be dispatched and destroyed.
"Eevo, eevo innon elariatat." the voice of the pilot informed him that they
were now within five hundred thousand miles of their target. Soon, they
would be rid of The Thing.
Izo, turned to walk away from the containment area, his presence was needed
on the bridge with the others during the final phase of their mission and
his attention was not needed here, especially with a four man crew in charge
of their passenger.
He froze, not sure why, turned toward the containment area once more and
stared at it. . .hard, and long.
Why was the crew not here? The announcement for their final procedure had
been made, and not one of the technicians had shown up yet. His stomach
grew nervous. He didn't want to find out what he thought he already knew.
Izo radioed the command crew, "Mao? Mao, Izo aqui. . .tono nee ipok?" The
helm responded to his call and said that all the technical crew were where
they should be, in the containment area. All save one, Omak was no where to
be found at his station. Izo donned a biohazard shield and activated it.
He would be protected for a full ten minutes in the presence of the
creature, but to do what needed to be done, he had more than sufficient
time. He unsealed the containment area and found exactly what he expected.
In the cell were the bodies of the other three crew men as well as the
bioweapon in it's initial phase of assimilation. Izo grit his teeth and
sealed the room. He activated the immolation units in the holding cell and
incinerated the creature with a blast of plasma.
"Acreeta, acreeta, es vi etsi un amacia!" Izo warned everyone on board of
the threat they now had on board. The Thing, as careful as they had been to
take precautions with it, had assimilated Omak and had one thought on it's
Omak, or what was once Omak, lumbered uneasily through the bowels of the
engine room aboard the space craft. In the distance, a klaxon blared loud
and long. In it's heart, it knew it's plan had been discovered, hiding was
no longer an option. It would have to make a play for the escape pods if it
could, because at this point it was too overwhelmed by the crew and could be
eliminated fairly easily. The Thing needed only a few more minutes to
complete it's assimilation of the containment tech in order for it to be
fully functional. At this moment it was at it's most vulnerable and open to
attack. Omakthing slipped into the shadows nearby and hid until the process
Izo armed himself with a plasma rifle. The side arm was the only weapon,
short of a fission weapon which could eradicate the threat. Projectiles
injured it, but also spread infectious bio material, that was unacceptable.
The plasma weapon fired bursts of superheated gel which expanded and
destroyed any organic material it came in contact with. The Thing would be
discorporate in seconds once they fired upon it, as long as they hit it
first and didn't damage any pertinent equipment. This operation was going
to be touchy. One of the junior crew men armed himself with a rifle.
"Preeto itat isu liak?" he chattered nervously. Izo nudged him on the arm.
The crew man wanted to know what to do once they found Omak, subdue him or.
. .? "Matat adelo." Izo growled. This was not a restraining operation,
this was extermination. Izo passed a three fingered hand over the
armament's recognition panel and brought the weapon to life; through out the
gun, warmth began to spread as the generators within began operation.
Engineer Ludo awoke from his pleasant dream about sky sailing along the
thermal currents of the homeworld and discovered that the blasted klaxon had
sounded and ruined everything. He grabbed a handful of Dulcelon gels, his
only vice while on board the vessel, and devoured them hungrily.
"Qual eseno?" he must have missed something major while he was asleep, not
only had the klaxon sounded, but now the Lieutenant's voice was heard over
the intercom system and it sounded frantic. Before he could zero in on
anything pertinent to the announcement, Omak bumped into him. Ludo turned
to the containment technician and asked him why he was wandering around the
engine room, it was just announced that all hands had to report to battle
stations. . .maybe they were under attack. Omak, clutching his stomach,
continued onward, not even listening to the engineer, he just wanted to
make it past the power modules toward the auxiliary hatches which led through
the entirety of the ship. But why would he do that?
Ludo didn't have much time to wonder about that question as Omak spun
around, and the passive face of the tech exploded outward as a slew of
tentacles, spiked and serrated, wound themselves around Ludo's face and then
tore his head clean off of his body and tossed it aside. Omakthing had no
time to infect new personnel, he wanted only to reach the pods, and touch
down on the nearest planetoid as quickly as possible. Ludo's lanky form
struck the floor, convulsing and spurting milky colored blood as Omakthing
descended into the maze of tunnels which led to his freedom.
Izo saw the readings on the sensor scans, The Thing had made it into the
duct system. It was heading for the life pods. Izo motioned for the armed
escort to follow him and asked that the others keep watch for any signs of
Omak. The command was fire and eliminate on sight. The team rushed toward
the auxiliary hatches nearest them and made their way to the life pods.
Light was, at best, minimal within the narrow ducts which ran, mazelike
through out the ship. Most of it was an intermittent glow from the optical
cables which were amid other sets of wiring and tubing which ran power,
fluids, and various other necessities to specific departments of the craft.
Amid the glow, something moved, slithered and dragged itself further down
the shaft. Omakthing was now just a Thing; grotesque, tentacled, and
multi-apendaged, it had sensed the crew not far behind and had decided that
it had to make a stand or else it would not make it at all. It was only a
short distance to the pods, but before it could program the pod to launch,
they would be upon it and kill it. The Thing took the time to assess it's
options and stared at the multi access tunnels it had all around it. In the
distance, the assault team was clumsily moving through the darkness. The
Thing hoisted itself into a shaft above it and waited.
Izo and the others kicked on the lights attached to their uniform's shoulder
mount, but navigating through the ductwork hauling their gear was rather
cumbersome. He watched the monitor display holographic ally projected before
him by the ship's computer and watched as The Thing paused for a moment and
then disappeared, completely off the map. Where had it gone? It couldn't
have used a cloaking device, they had no such technology on board. Was the
computer glitching? He didn't know, nor did he have time to wonder. The
team moved forward into the duct work until they reached the life pods.
One by one they emerged from the auxiliary tube almost as if they were
reborn, except no warm mothering arms were there to welcome them, no father
cradling them in strong supple arms, only the cold, dead metal of the unused
pod bay. It was a circular room sectioned off with one large escape pod
along each panel of the room. Twenty in total and not one used as of yet.
Izo fanned out with a couple of his men and ordered the others to keep a
sharp eye. In the distance, the engines hummed and computer relays clicked
and buzzed. Sweat dotted Izo's cheeks and stung his eyes. Had it already
made it into one of the pods? Something moved in the distance causing one
of the men to whirl around. Mercifully, The Thing had killed the lights in
the pod bay just as it was about to make it's attack, because Izo knew the
nightmare that was too come if he could see it in all it's glory.
It was only one. . .they were ten. . .But in a mere blur of seconds it was
upon them. Weapons discharged in the pod bay lit up the darkness with
flame. At one point Izo caught a glimpse of the creature as it ensnared two
of his crew men in it's tentacles and ripped them to shreds. . .from the
inside out. They had panicked and were paying the price, confusion and
uncertainty were causing them to fire blindly and not seek out the source of
the attacks. Izo didn't want to fire until he was sure and at one point he
saw it. . . It was attacking from above in the ducts. He rolled on his
back and fired. As he did, one of the sensors on his bio shield shattered
and the force field was rendered inoperable. The Thing was hit by the
plasma cylinder and in seconds the cylinder would release the superheated
gel inside the monstrosity, consuming it from within till it was mush. Even
in the throes of death, The Thing managed to ensnare Izo around his neck and
drag him ceiling ward.
It was dying, it knew it, could feel it as the cylinder dispensed the cursed
immolation weapon through out it's circulatory system. Even so, it still
had a chance at survival. It was going to try a rapid infection/assimilation
one last time. Even as it grabbed Izo, it had begun the process, mutating
it's cellular structure to allow the tentacles to house the glands
containing the recombinant DNA necessary for assimilation. Even if it died,
Izo would still be slowly overtaken, painfully aware as his cells were
destroyed and replaced with the new blueprint his body would need to be a
vessel for The Thing.
Pain. . .unimaginable agony as the weapon went into full effect. In seconds
the creature erupted in flame and dropped Izo before it had him more than
three feet off the floor. Izo watched as it liquefied and burned, becoming
nothing more harmless than a pasty pink mass through out the ducts.
Izo took in the slaughter that was before him. Nine of his crew were dead
before him. At least at the moment they were dead. Given a few hours, they
would begin to show signs of life, and after ten hours would be mobile once
again. Of course they wouldn't be themselves. They would be it. . . a
Thing. No. . .This could not happen. It had to end here. . .Or did it?
No. . .It didn't want to die. . . It had infected him, imbued him with it's
essence and he would soon be one of them. It began, in his head. . .A sharp
pain between the eyes as if someone had jabbed a needle into the back of his
skull and driven it to the other side of his head. He struggled to his feet
and felt the world swim around him. He tried to speak, but found he
couldn't. . .at least not the way he wanted to. He did speak, as he punched
up the intercom for the bridge but found what he said wasn't "We must
scuttle the ship." Instead, he discovered he was saying, "Situation,
nominal, all hands stay at posts. " He wasn't in control, even now it was
attempting to assert itself. He knew the only thing he could do was scuttle
it from down here by blowing all the pods. Izo struggled to reach the
master controls at the center of the room where all the individual panels
could be overridden. At one point his legs locked on him and he could not
move at all. He fell forward and collapsed a couple of feet from the panel
and dragged himself with a free hand toward it, all the while as his crew on
the bridge begged him to inform them of their situation. The pain had
become a dull throb and slowly he was beginning to lose sensation in his
arms and hands. Soon, he would cease to be and an impostor would be there
in his place. He managed to access the Purge All command and executed it.
In his own mind he heard a scream of terror, anger, frustration, as the
explosive bolts of the life pods blew open the outer hatches and prepared to
launch. He watched, in fascination as the engines of the pods burst to life
and expelled flame into the pod bay, searing him to a crisp and destroying
The Thing within.
What Izo did not see as he died, was that one of the dead crew had managed
to climb out of the bay and into one of the auxiliary ducts away from the
The ship careened off course and tumbled wildly out of control. The crew,
unprepared for such a maneuver, could not recover from the sudden loss of
pressure. The saucer, no longer operable, slammed into the atmosphere of
the third planet, a calm blue orb dotted with white and streaked fire for a
good ten minutes before it disappeared. Swallowed up by the clouds.
As the debris of the fireball settled and smoke from the crater subsided, if
there had been anyone present to witness the crash, they would have seen a
shape emerging from the ruins of the craft. This shape, resembling parts of
one being and several others, stared at it's surroundings for only a few
moments before realizing one truth. . .
. . .It was alone. . .
There was nothing. Great vistas of white, with sharp peaks of stone rose up
every few miles, and a powdery substance was falling from the sky, but
other than that. . .nothing. It ascended the impact crater and sought out a
place to go next.
When it finally rose from the hole in the earth, a sensation, unlike any
other, had overcome it. It had begun to lose sensation in it's lower
extremities. It had no feeling in them whatsoever. The air stung at it as
the soft gale became a storm. The Thing noticed it became harder and harder
for it to move, as if it was solidifying into stone as it stood exposed to
The Thing took two or three more steps before it slumped over, seemingly
dead from the sub-zero temperatures, and shuddered once. Snow blanketed the
grotesque, aberration until it disappeared beneath the frost and tundra. For
the first time in it's existence, the creature knew a serene peace unlike
any other it had ever encountered. No more running. No more hiding. It
could merely be, left alone, locked in a sleep that would last hundreds of
thousands of years.