Fiction Science Fiction Adventure

The instruments are supposed to help me understand what I’m seeing, but they fail tremendously in this regard. I learned very quickly, yet quite a bit too late, that their data collection was not in service to me but to those back home. The instruments produce calculations and extrapolate theoretical what-ifs to translate to scientists millions of miles away. They then transmit it away, as if I’m not even here.

The reality of the situation is that I’ve been training my whole life for this. Ever since I was small. I would look up into the sky, day or night, and find wonders out there that always dwarfed what was observable on the ground. It’s still true. I look out the portal of this ship as it hurtles through space, a cosmic lightning rod just hoping to be struck, and every bit of the experience is awe-inspiring.

That actually makes things worse. Yes, the culmination of all my hopes and dreams has become a source of great disappointment. The reality of the situation is that I am little more than a customer service rep with some additional duties as tech support and maintenance.

That information I collect? It goes somewhere else. It takes a long time to get there. The response takes a long time to return. It takes about an hour to get there and about an hour for the reply to reach me and in between it takes an interminably long time for those receiving the information to interpret it, make up their minds about what they’d like to do about it, create a plan, clear the plan with their superiors, and then formulate their response. If something is immediately interesting I am forbidden to react for about an hour… times two… times the inestimable span of interpretation, struggle, understanding, inspiration, doubt, resolve, and acquiescence to bureaucracy. If something is immediately dangerous I am forbidden to react for an hour… times two…times and unknown variable. If I encounter something that would change our perspective of the universe and all we know about it I cannot act for an hour… times two… times uncertainty. The protocols are there for a reason after all.

The truth is, just such a thing happened about seventy-two hours ago.  

They arrived and quite easily gained access to the ship. The safety protocols were laughably ill-suited to thwarting their nuanced methods of infiltration. The reality of the situation is that only we would consider it nuanced. It’s quite possible that their facility in overcoming our technology equates to our own ability to outmaneuver the most basic of creatures. I am in the process of collecting my own data on the subject.

Honestly, I am quite excited. This encounter has provided the opportunity to employ my training in evasion and covert surveillance. I am happy to report that my skills have proven quite ample at avoiding their methods of detection.

They are strange-looking creatures. Not terribly symmetrical or otherwise pleasing in physiology. Their appendages do seem quite inelegantly conceived. They move through the environment with a complete lack of grace with little regard for economy of movement. They are quite clumsy.

The alert sent upon their arrival has not yet garnered a response. Of course, we have protocols. I expect that they expect they are being followed to the letter. They are not. This terrible experience has to be salvaged in some way. This is without a doubt the perfect time to break protocol. 

“How should we proceed?” The voice inquired with a clinical detachment.

“Follow the protocol.” An equally clinical voice replied.

“Perhaps we must re-evaluate the protocol?” The first voice posits. “Our protocol breaks down in this same place each time. Perhaps we have inadvertently created a flawed scenario? Perhaps there is value in allowing it to play out?”

“Perhaps.” The second voice cooled noticeably in its reply. “Continue monitoring the situation. Report back your findings.”

The sound of the door sliding open and closed again did not distract the observer from the observed. The slight suction that accompanied it should have alerted the room’s sole occupant that something was amiss. The faint whisper of moving air went completely undetected. The subject simply stared intently at the screen, sifting through the data as it arrived, calculating and recalculating possibilities to solve a riddle no one had asked. The gas that slowly filled the room was colorless and odorless. It killed with ruthless efficiency. The subject breathed in a last breath and had expired before its exhalation.

The sound of the reply echoed through the ship. The reality of the situation is that it is no ship at all. I was hoping this time would be different. I stepped out from my hiding place and walked down the corridor. The infiltrator fell into step beside me.

“Failed again?”

“It appears so,” I replied, disappointment clearly audible in my voice.

“It’s always in the same spot, isn’t it?”

“It is.” I turned, fearing what came next.

“Is that our fault? How can so many fail? Why always at the same place?” 

The sound of my sigh did not distract the inquirer from their inquiry. The click of my opening the clasp on my belt should not have gone unnoticed. My actions should have registered as out of the ordinary. The subject simply stood there, awaiting my reply.

“Thank you for your service.” I extended my hand. “We will try again tomorrow.”

The device I had palmed injected the poison with little more than a prick as our hands met. The subject breathed in a final breath and had expired before its exhalation.

I was troubled. I exited the simulation. The reality of the situation is that I’d been about fifty feet from the observer the entire time. Fifty feet down to be precise. 

I mounted the staircase slowly and climbed with a measured pace to the next landing. Opening the door I fell into step with my collaborator.

“Disappointing,” I remarked.


“By my calculations, this is the four hundred-thirteenth failure by an observer. Is that correct?” I asked.


“And the thirty-seventh failure of an infiltrator?” I observed. “That is frustrating.”

I felt the gentle hand come to rest upon my shoulder. The tenderness of that touch did not distract me from my musings. I did not feel the slight prick. I breathed in…

“The seventh failure of a collaborator.” The cold voice supplied. “Always questions.”

“Indeed.” A collaborator replied.

“Indeed.” A second agreed.

“Indeed.” A third echoed.

“Reset the simulation. Follow the protocol.”

April 21, 2024 12:28

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Hannah Lynn
13:03 May 02, 2024

Intriguing story ... very well written!


John Werner
16:43 May 03, 2024

Thank you, Hannah!


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Emilie Ocean
16:17 Apr 27, 2024

Great story! It's all about the protocol ;)


John Werner
16:30 Apr 27, 2024

Thank you, Emilie!


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Mary Bendickson
19:42 Apr 21, 2024

Same ol', same ol'.


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