Bev Bora sat at the Distance Monitor Consoles as she did every day. Two monitors showed nothing but static. The third, labeled ‘Zima’ showed a dark area of vegetation. She watched as she did every day for a sign of non-plant life.
It wasn’t her job. Her job was to calculate and program inertial distributors for the Primavera, who’s bridge she sat on. She was incredibly good at this job. So good in fact that she could usually get her day’s worth of programming down in two or three hours. She chose to spend most of the rest of her time at the Distance Monitor Consoles.
This was volunteer duty, so she didn’t risk a reprimand for goofing off during work hours. And nobody else really wanted the gig. Only Marnly showed any interest. Beve was pretty sure he was just being friendly.
“Any apes?” Marnly said from behind.
She turned and grinned. “Whole pack. I just missed them though because I turned around to say hi to you. They’ll be gone but he time we both look.” She turned to find the same empty area of trees and grass. It was their usual joke.
Tell me Bev, what do you expect to see. The ship is dead. It’s a fluke that the distance transmitters are stills ending this one camera. And since the ship is dead, that camera will operate forever. All you’ll see is the trees die slowly.”
Bev didn’t believe that. She’d seen things. Shadows. She’d reviewed the records to make sure she wasn’t imagining it and they were there. She’d reported them with great excitement but the Command team determined it wasn’t enough to take any action and just ordered monitoring to continue.
The Zima, was a Generation ship like the Primavera. Along with the Qiu and Majira, the four ships and set off in different directions to explore and possibly colonize. The ships were great works of engineering meant to last for inestimable periods of time.
It hadn’t worked out that way.
The Qiu and Majira had stopped transmitting years ago. Officially they were designated out of range but Bev had reviewed the stored last transmissions. Both ships had been in trouble.
The Zima had never stopped broadcasting After a containment breach and a freak disease outbreak, the Captain had declared ship wide emergency and ordered all survivors to the Bridge. The last transmission from the Bridge had been the Captain’s inspiring survival speech interrupted by an explosion and data indicating all hands were dead.
Then the transmission flipped to this scene of trees and grass from inside the ships Park. The Primavera had a park just like it and a camera observing a similar scene. All four ships and been laid out the same.
Everyone had expected the scene to show death by fire or vacuum breach or just to stop transmitting. But none of that happened. Apparently environmental controls were working well enough to keep the vegetation thriving. Basic power for life support was provided by passive stellar collectors, so the camera operation meant power was still on and as Marnly speculated, would probably last forever.
The mystery of what had happened on Zima consumed the attention of whole command teams for months. The containment breach must have been fixed. According to the Captain’s reports killed 44% of all life on Zima? So the Park’s continued existence meant it had been outside that number and the breach never affected it. The disease that finished off so many of the rest of the crew wouldn’t have affected the plant life. And the bridge explosion? What caused that? why would the system switch to a park view rather than Medical or Engine Room?
Eventually no answers and no new data came along, and only Bev was left obsessed with the transmissions.
Marnly finally convinced her to get dinner and they left. He failed, again, to convince her to take the train on from the Barracks to Galley for a fresh dinner instead of commissary food. She pleaded, as usual, that she mated to head back to the bridge after they eat and she only had two train credits left for the day.
“Don’t you want to transfer to another department eventually? I mean you say you don’t want a command job. What about Observation? They have the best views in Primavera and they’re close to the park. OUR park.”
She laughed. “Yes I know. But I really feel connected to the Zima. And I don’t believe everyone there is gone. So I think we can discover what happened. maybe even make contact again.”
He gave up and they switched to talking about sports. Bev’s only other interest besides the Distance Consoles was the Handball League. She oddly supported Tactical’s team, even though she lived in Barracks and worked in Bridge both of which had a team.
After dinner, Marnly accompanied Bev back to the Bridge from the Barracks even though it meant spending a valuable train credit.
They were laughing about the chances of Galley’s Handball team ever scoring against anyone when both stopped short.
On the Distance Transmission Screen for Zima in the middle of the trees, stood a woman in a red dress. She was beautiful. As Bev sat down and began priority log and forward of the scene, she shook and began to cry.
“I’m not imagining it?”
Marnly sat down slowly. “no,” he whispered.
The woman in the dress began to come towards the camera. She climbed up a tree and stared into the camera. The transmission did have audio but the woman did not speak. She reached forward towards the camera and the transmission went blank. Not static, just blank. The transmission was still chive but the woman must have disconnected the camera.
“No!” yelled Bev.