Nika Veresk
In the shadow of the stolen light

“Give me some light here,” the captain pointed Jane towards a small control panel at the entrance to the next compartment.

“It’s broken,” said the girl sadly.

“We’ll short-circuit it,” decided Paul.

After a couple of simple moves, the portal door slid open. Behind the door it was completely in darkness as well; the attention attracted only by a tiny flickering green light in the corner.

“Captain,” Oleg’s voice could be heard from the earphones. “The preliminary diagnostics have been performed; the ship supplies only the life-support systems of the biological object. I wouldn’t risk providing it with energy from our shuttle, it’s too dangerous.”

“Confirmed, I agree with you. It’s pitch-black in here…”

“I think he’s there,” Jane started, slowly moving towards the signal.

“How’s the air test?”

“There’s no biological danger, but the ship was a long time in the open space so there are traces of radiation everywhere…”

“How long could it have been flying?”

With the help of the flashlights they could see lifeless electronic panels on the walls and the central control panel, as well as two large horizontal capsules standing parallel to each other.

Jane approached one of them and, bending down, called the captain with her hand. She wiped the shining dust off the surface with her glove.

“Can you see what we see?” Paul’s words resounded a bit louder than was expected in the absolute silence.

Under the thick clouded glass there was a man, though his image was obscured by the glare of the flashlights.

“So… we see a man…” answered Chris.

“Is he alive?” Lora’s voice trembled with excitement.

“There are weak signs of life. This used to be his data display, it seems,” Jane touched a small screen above the man’s head. “It’s not working… There’s nothing we can do to help him, he needs to be hospitalized.”

“What about the other object?” asked the captain, nodding in the direction of the other capsule behind Jane.

She turned away, scanned the capsule and shook her head.

“I see. Oleg, is it possible to take this capsule out of the ark and transport it to Titanium in the quarantine compartment? We’ll tow the empty ark.”

“Yes, I’ll be right there.”

After six hours of tireless work, the team finally connected the capsule to the mobile energy source and took it on board their shuttle with the help of the mini transporter operating on electromagnetic pillows.

Lora restlessly waited at the glass wall separating the snow-white quarantine compartment from the deck.

“Can I watch?”

“Of course you can. Just let Jane finish with the anti-radiation treatment. Oh, and put on the protective coveralls.” The young man could not help smiling at her impatience. “There’s nothing unusual there, just a man-sleeping, so to say.”

“Do you think he’s from Earth?”

“This was Dr Blake’s preliminary assessment. Chris is now analysing the data from the onboard computer. We’re going to find out soon…”

“If only it was that easy!” Chris joined their chat.

“What do you mean?”

“Almost all the data is a total mess… It’s as if their computer went crazy… But…” he paused knowingly and smiled.

“But…what?!.” Lora was listening to that small report holding her breath.

“But I can say for sure that the mother ship that carried this ark was launched from Earth… Around two hundred years ago!”

“So it’s true!” Lora forcefully grabbed Paul’s arm, like a child who had received a long-awaited present for her birthday. She looked at all the crew members with excitement. “Half a century after our departure from Earth, others also learned to travel into the deep space!”

“The technology resembles ours. I reckon they used the designs developed at the scientific department of the ‘Unity of Opposites’, abandoned back on Earth. And, finally, they were able to implement the interplanetary spacecraft project,” clarified Butoff.

“Then what happened to the ship itself?” frowned the captain.

“Unless I sort out the madness of the onboard computer, I will not be able to give you a definite answer.”

“I’m going inside,” Lora smiled.

“I’m coming with you,” Jane had already put on the coveralls. “Let’s scan the man for illnesses or diseases. Two hundred years in open space and God knows how long he was inside this capsule.”

“What happened to the second capsule?” asked Lora when they were left alone.

“I think the onboard computer switched it off by itself. Having compared the state of the organisms in the two capsules, it chose the strongest one. I have read about that system, just a mathematical calculation; nothing more.”

Lora shook her head regretfully. When they entered the compartment, Jane started filling data in a medical form, while her companion bent over the clouded glass, breathless. She could see a pale face, with skin that seemed almost transparent and dark hair that contrasted with the whiteness of his suit’s and the capsule itself.

“How does the capsule really preserve life?”

“I think a kind of preservative is injected in blood which neutralises later on. An old technology… It is highly dangerous to the synaptic connections in the brain.”

“Can something be done in order to bring him out of this state?”

Jane frowned.

“It’s preferable to leave him as he is now till our arrival on Titanium. One wrong move could cause the antidote to be injected into his blood, and then who knows how our guest will be feeling when he wakes up and what kind of help he might need!”

Lora nodded.

“Why do you think his spaceship has travelled such a long way? Was it just a scientific expedition? Or, is it possible that they might have been looking for us?”

Jane shrugged her shoulders.

“Who knows. Let’s hope that when he comes around he’ll tell us the whole story.”