Science Fiction Suspense Fiction

What were they thinking?

Nova rushed through the hallway of the ship, the lights flashing in rhythm to the claxons resounding through the groaning metal hull. Sparks rained on the crumpled bodies strewn across the floor. She stumbled over one, gasping as she realized that it was her best friend, Sola, staring at her with bloody, unseeing eyes.

“Keep moving!” Kylan shouted as he rushed past her.

Nova choked back tears as she glanced at Sola one last time and fell into step beside Kylan. “What happened?”

“We were hit by the anomaly near Lalande 21185.” He stopped as they got to the doors of Engineering, which were jammed. Nova helped him push the doors open with a creak. Brooke, the chief engineer, collapsed at their feet.

“I guess she won’t be able to help us,” Kylan said.

Nova stared at the body of yet another friend lying on the floor. “Are we the only survivors?”

“You’re the only other person I’ve seen that’s still on their feet,” Kylan said as he ran to the consoles.

Nova paled. “You mean 98 of the 100 people on this ship are dead?”

He nodded. “Did you see anything in the readings from that anomaly that might tell us what happened?”

“What happened is that the captain flew us too close to a temporal distortion,” Nova said. “I told her to stay away from it. Every scan showed something different. Why did we divert course and come here anyway?”

“We didn’t divert course, it did.”

Nova looked up. “What?”

“Look at your scans from yesterday.”

Nova logged into the system and pulled up the scans. “The temporal distortion moved three light years, directly into our path.” She looked at Kylan. “It looks like the trajectory has migrated toward our path since we entered this system. How is that possible?”

“Maybe it’s drawn to the ship. We’re the first people in this system, aren’t we?”

“We’re the first people anywhere out here,” Nova said, “and with good reason. Nobody wants us near Earth anymore.”


“For the death of five innocent souls and the destruction of the Lunar colony, you are hereby sentenced to life aboard the Redemption.” The judge banged his gavel, stood, and walked out of the small courtroom.

Nova stared at her lawyer. “What does that mean?”

“It means you leave Earth, and never come back,” her lawyer said as the bailiff took Nova’s arm. “I’m sorry, Nova. I tried.”

“I didn’t mean to hurt anybody. It was a mistake!”

“It was a mistake that cost too much,” the bailiff muttered as he led her back to her cell.


“It shifted again,” Kylan said.

Nova shook off the memory and stared at her screen. How did she miss that?

“Do we have engines?”

Kylan shook his head. “Minimal. Every time I move, it moves. It's engulfing us in a temporal loop.”


“I see you were a computer engineer specializing in Artificial Intelligence,” Captain Voss said, peering at Nova over her computer. “Of course, we’ll have to reassign you per the terms of your sentence.”

Nova swallowed. “I understand.”

Captain Voss closed her computer and looked at Nova. “I know this is difficult, but please understand that we aren’t judging you. All of us are here under less-than-ideal circumstances. We’re Earth’s outcasts.”

Nova met her gaze. “The entire Lunar colony was wiped out because my code was a virus.”

“I know those lives weigh heavily on you, but you’re paying your penance.” Captain Voss folded her hands on the desk. “Did you intend to write a virus?”

Nova looked down. “No.”

“That’s good enough for me. As far as I’m concerned this isn’t a prison sentence, it’s a second chance. I named this ship Redemption because that’s what I intend for it to be for every soul on board: a chance to redeem themselves from the past. The terms of your sentence don’t allow you to work in engineering, so how about science? We’re short-staffed in that area, and will be doing a lot of exploration.” She smiled. “Who knows? Once we’re far enough away from the Sol system, then maybe you can do some work with AI. We’re out here so they can forget about us until they want to mine our research. Who’s going to ask how we did it?”

Nova shook her head. “No more AI. It’s time to start over.” She stared out of the window at the strange stars glittering around the ship. “Science is fine. I can’t hurt anybody there.”


“Nova, can you hear me?”


“We’re drifting, and the anomaly is surrounding us,” Kylan said. “We’ll need to reprogram the ship AI to help me break free from this anomaly.”

“I can’t,” Nova said. “I’m not allowed to do that. Five people died.”

Kylan put his hands on Nova’s shoulders. “We will die if you don’t do this. I’m a decent pilot, but I can’t break free of this anomaly without calculations that neither of us can do fast enough to escape. I need the AI to help me break free, and you can reprogram it.”

 “How are we still alive?” she asked.

Kylan let go of her. “I don’t know, but we won’t be for long if you don’t do something. I’m sorry for your losses, Nova, but we might be able to fix this if you can rewrite the AI to help us break free from this anomaly.

Nova swallowed past the lump in her throat. 98 people died because of this anomaly.

A chance to start over.

She couldn’t undo what she had done, but maybe she could do something to help now. 


“Just let go.”

Nova looked up at her grandfather, sitting in the rocking chair next to her swing on his back porch. It was a beautiful summer day, and her hands were wrapped in string.

“I keep getting tangled up. I can’t do this string art!”

“You’re overthinking it,” he smiled. “You have to let go and let your hands move by natural instinct. Come on, Nova. You know the moves. Stop thinking, let go, and just move.”

Nova took a deep breath and allowed her hands to flow through the motions.


Nova’s fingers flew over the keyboard, entering code. Kylan stood next to her, watching the systems come back online as the quantum code spread through the ship systems, rebooting the AI and giving it codes to take over command of the ship with Kylan’s assistance. Calculations flowed as the AI read the energy of the anomaly and plotted a trajectory to escape the anomaly.

“Ready,” Nova said as she entered the final command code.

Kylan moved to the main engineering station. The ship roared to life, smoothly breaking free of the white light surrounding and buffeting the ship.

“It’s working!” Kylan said as the light flashed through the room.


“Nova, are you alright?”

Nova opened her eyes to the ship doctor, Captain Voss, and Kylan standing over her. She sat up and looked around the sick bay.

“What happened?”

“We found you passed out in engineering,” Captain Voss said. “Kylan said you helped us avoid a temporal anomaly.”

Nova looked at Captain Voss. “How are we alive?”

“It’s a temporal anomaly,” Kylan said. “Your programming gave the AI parameters to calculate how to navigate us out of it before that catastrophic hit.”

“How did I do that?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Captain Voss patted her shoulder. “I was right about you, Nova. You saved 98 lives today. This is your redemption.”

“Maybe,” Nova muttered as she stared out of the window at the stars passing by.  

October 08, 2023 17:25

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