Mystery Suspense Science Fiction

“Vic, you can’t seriously be considering this.”

Victor didn’t respond to her, already lost to his own thoughts. Scenarios ran through his mind, each with its own outcome and list of risks, as well as possible profits.

“He’s already lost in his own head. You know what that means?” The low octave of Doc’s voice reverberated off of the metal table’s surface, leaving ripples in the tin cups of water sitting forgotten before the crew. Doc sighed heavily before leaning back is his seat, his heavy boots clanking loudly on the table as he propped them up. “Mean’s he’s considering it.”

Serina grumbled loudly as she jumped down from the counter’s edge. She stalked angrily over to Victor, the large man still lost in his thoughts, his forefinger and thumb already in their customary spot under his chin. His brows were furrowed in deep thought. Serina, though small and thin in stature, made up for her lack in height with her attitude, a fact well known by the entire crew of Venturina. Her steel-toe boots clomped loudly against the carbon deck of the chow-hall. Being the largest space onboard their cargo hauler, other than the cargo bay itself, the space was often used for any number of reasons other than just for meals. Such as debriefings or crew meetings like this one.

Victor was rudely pulled from his thoughts as the butt of a pulse riffle jabbed into his ribs. Pushing Serina’s weapon away half-heartedly, Victor shouted to the ship’s AI, “Elara, run the message again.”

“Yes, Captain.” Heavy static replaced the smooth echoing voice of the computer. Serina threw her hands up in frustration and stalked back toward her usual seat. The counter.

A panicked man’s voice occasionally broke through the heavy static blaring through the chow-hall’s speakers.

“Please, to anyone who might be listening! We are-“ all five crew members in the room cringed as high-pitched static cut through the audio feed. “-colony ship. We hail from … and have been adrift for … a warning! Please, do not … like us. Please.” The man hiccuped, perhaps holding back from breaking down in either terror or sadness. “I say again, please, do not-“

The feed dissolved to static once more before ending. The clear feminine voice of Elara announced the end of the SOS signal feed.

“Do not… what?” Victor longed to stand and pace as his thoughts again raced, a habit six years spent cramped in an old space cargo hauler had yet to break him of. Instead, he tapped his boot restlessly against the carbon floor.

“We ain’t heros, Vic.” Jericho’s rough voice, damaged from decades of smoking, barely reached him from three feet away. The old man hardly ever spoke. As such, on the rare occasion he did, those around him tended to listen. Including Victor. Broken again from his thoughts, though this time less unpleasantly, he took in the people in the room with him. His crew. His make-shift family.

Doc sat at the far end of the table. The enormous man leaned casually back in his chair; boots propped up on the table. He refused to tell anyone what his real name was, or where he was from. On a ship full of individuals running from their own pasts, no one questioned his reason for secrecy, especially when he proved his usefulness around the med-bay and was officially dubbed “Doc”.

To the giant’s left was Mouse, a boy who had managed to stow-away in their cargo bay six months ago. No one could figure where he came from or what led a sixteen-year-old boy to seek safety from a backwater mining planet onboard a cargo hauler with a less-than reputable crew, but his innocence and drive to be helpful quickly grew on every member. Victor still wasn’t convinced that they wouldn’t leave him at the next respectable city they docked in, but always seemed to find some excuse the keep the kid onboard.

Propped on the counter was Serina, a small woman with more attitude than should be considered healthy. Though she was quick to bite the metaphorical head off of anyone who got in her way, she was loyal and one hell of a good shot with her plasma riffle. Not to mention she was the only person on this rust-bucket that spoke fluently in all five common dialects used throughout the Republic-owned sects of space. A talent that often came in handy when dealing with their variety of clientele. If only her attitude didn’t cause most their negotiations to devolve into fights and the occasional emergency take-off.

To Victor’s right and sitting the closest was Jericho. The Venturina initially belonged to the old man when Victor purchased it nearly seven years ago. Though the ship was old and hardly ran well enough to make the jumps needed to get from one sect to another, the asking price was nearly too good to be true. When asked what the catch was, Jericho insisted that he be taken along as a crew member to keep the old bucket running. Having no mechanical intuition of his own, Victor was forced to agree. He asked the old man what happened to his old crew on a few occasions and was given different outlandish answers. Each time, the answer was more eccentric than the last. At some point, he figured it was best he didn’t know.

The last member of their small crew was the most secretive of them all. Belira. The woman was tall and thin, her skin as pale as a ghost. Though bewitching to look upon, it took several weeks before the crew stopped wincing when they met her gaze. Her eyes, lacking any iris or pupil, were a milky white. Despite this, she was mute, rather than blind. And she was the best navigator and pilot Victor had ever seen. Victor “bought” her three years ago from a merchant, sickened by the laws in that sect which still allowed the barbaric practice of slave-trade. Despite how many times he had told her since she first stepped foot on his ship that she belonged to no being and was now free, she refused to leave the ship. He wasn’t sure why she remained but found himself thankful that she did every time she managed to navigate them out of a sticky situation.

Each member of his crew had their own reasons for running from the Republic. An unspoken rule existed that none were forced to share details of their past or any insight as to why they ran or what lives they had left behind. All that was expected was loyalty to each other. Just as Victor had his own reasons for keeping his head low and off of the Republic’s radar, he couldn’t ignore this SOS beacon.

The eyes of his crew followed him as he stood and moved to a large screen built into the wall. At the touch of a few buttons, he brought up the view from the ship’s control room. Looming in the darkness ahead of them, lit only by the faded glow of the Venturina’s flood lights, drifted a massive colony ship. The sheer size of the vessel brought out gasps from most of the crew behind him. Scrolled along the ship’s side in bold, white script was Hope’s Haven.

If not for the occasional flicker of exterior lights, the ship would seem lifeless.

“We may not be heroes,” He glanced at Jericho. “But we can’t ignore an SOS from a colony ship.” The only response he received was the dull thud of Serina knocking the back of her head against the metal wall, presumably out of frustration. Hearing no other objection from his crew, he left the chow-hall and made his way to the control room, Belira a step behind him. Once there, he nodded to his pilot, indicating for her to open a line of communication with Hope’s Haven.

Hope’s Haven, this is Venturina. We have received your SOS. Requesting permission to dock.”

His request was met with static, which cut in and out repeatedly, as if someone were attempting to communicate back. He repeated his request twice with the same result before telling Belira to go ahead and dock.

Thirty minutes later, he and three members of his crew stood before the hatch that would lead them from the safety of their cargo hauler and into the colony ship. He would have preferred to land in the ship’s bay, but the large blast doors had not opened upon their approach. They were forced to dock manually to one of the small personnel hatches lining the aft end of the colony ship. Doc, Serina, and Belira stood behind him, each armed and donning emergency flight suits, which would immediately activate life support should the atmosphere inside the colony ship prove toxic or unpressurized.

“It’s not too late, Vic. We can leave. We should leave.” He knew Serina had a point, but he shook his head and pulled the hatch release. A loud hissing filled the area as the hatch opened. Since their suite’s sensors didn’t go off and enclose them in oxygen-producing helmets, Victor deemed the ship’s atmosphere safe enough and stepped through the hatch into Hope’s Haven.

They emerged into a long hallway lined with pressurized doors on either side. Long, slim florescent lights flickered weakly overhead. While still able to see in the flickering light, they each turned on their flashlights. Victor waited a few moments for their intrusion to be noticed, but no one came to meet them. No alarms blared. Other than the hum of electricity from the lights, nothing stirred.

The hair on Victors arms beneath his suit began to rise as the tingling sensation of dread creeped up his spine. Before his nerves could get the better of him, Victor lifted his plasma pistol and signaled his small team forward.

After nearly an hour of navigating though silent hallways filled with flickering lights, they finally emerged into a massive open space. The group let out a collective gasp as they took in the sight. Larger than any loading bay Victor had ever seen, the space exposed six levels above them, as well as another five below. Bridges, platforms, and stairs connected the levels at seemingly random intervals. The platforms contained all manner of amenities, from small fields of grass circled by park benches and gazebos to classic playgrounds and shop stalls.

Along the walls, storefronts complete with shelves and awnings stood untouched. Though impressive, the lack of people in such a massive space was unsettling. Far above them, a massive dome covered in thousands of lights immersed the entire area in warm light. After a few seconds, the lights would dim to a dark blue, casting the expanse of bridges and platforms in darkness, before gradually shifting back to warm light.

Serina shuffled back and forth, rubbing her arms in discomfort. “This place is creepy. Where is everybody?”

Victor shrugged, his attention on Belira, who had wondered to a stall set into the wall closest to where they emerged from the hallways. She bent over the counter, grabbing a small box from a shelf and walking back toward the group. As she approached, Victor tried to identify the small box in her hand. The construct was only a foot wide, its face littered with buttons and dials. Each end of the box was covered in a mesh material.

“I don’t believe it.” Jericho’s scratchy voice jolted through their headsets, causing each of them to startle. In the oddness surrounding them, Victor had forgotten that the rest of the crew watched their status from the safety of the control room onboard the Venturina.

“What is it, old man?” Victors’ words, as soft spoken as they had been, seemed to echo in the emptiness around them.

“What she’s got there. ‘S a radio. Haven’t seen one’a dem like that since I was a kid. Even then, it was an antique.” Victor studied the box only a moment longer before telling Belira to put it back.

As they made their way deeper into the open space, a sudden blur of movement caught Victor’s attention. Yet when he turned, he found nothing except for an empty platform covered in shopping stalls.

“Vic.” Doc’s unsteady tone was enough to have him hurrying to the large man’s side. He stood on another platform, parallel to the one covered in stalls. As he reached Doc’s side, so did the rest of the crew, staring down at the grassy platform.

It took a moment for Victor to make sense of what he looked at. Serina understood at the same moment, cursing and taking a step back, her face white with terror.

The grass covered hill before them moved as slight waves would upon gentle water. However, it was not a breeze that caused the blades of green to move, but time. Within seconds, the blades would grow to a few inches long, before suddenly halving themselves. Only to grow again. It was as though Victor was watching the field’s lifecycle on repeat.

Icy dread crept across his limbs as he understood. Slowly, now knowing what to look for, Victor turned and looked out over the network of platforms and bridges. Blurs of movement, as he had noticed before, caught his attention again. This time, he was able to process what it was he saw.

Individuals and groups of people raced around their small crew and incredible rates. So fast, their bodies were no more than a blur. Grass grew, then was cut to maintain it’s length. The lights far above brightened to daylight, then instantly dimmed to night, before cycling again.

Hope’s Haven was suck in a time-loop; a cosmic phenomenon still unexplained by this era’s brightest star-faring researchers. They had to get out of there before they became ensnared in the same trap. Victor turned, his order to retreat already forming, only to find himself alone on the platform. There was no sign of Doc, Serina, or Belira.

“No. No no no no…” Refusing to believe it was too late, he turned and ran back the way they had come. Terror flowed like acid through his veins as he tried to remember which turns they had taken through the maze of hallways back to Venturina. The blur of motion snagged at the fringes of his vision, but he refused to acknowledge what he knew surrounded him.

“Jericho, Mouse, come in!” Neither responded to his call on his headset. Not even static.

Gasping for breath, either from raw terror or exertion of running, Victor found himself before a large, pressurized door. Silently, the entry opened and closed repeatedly, as though something kept the doors from closing completely. This wasn’t the hatch to his ship, but the sound of static on the other end caught his attention. As the doors slid open, Victor jumped through the entry and into the room beyond.

Judging by the wall of ancient-looking screens, blinking lights, and numerous chairs bolted to the deck, he assumed this was the ship’s control room. A dim static sounded from large speakers in the consoles lining the room. Before Victor could consider what to do next, a clear voice came through the speakers.

Hope’s Haven, this is Venturina. We have received your SOS. Requesting permission to dock.”

Sickness roiled in his stomach as he recognized his own voice.

Hands shaking, Victor searched the matrix of lights and buttons before him. The controls were older than anything he had seen before, and it took longer than he’d ever admit to any other Captain to find the controls for the line that would link him to the ship hailing Hope’s Haven.

The wrongness of the entire situation caused him to shiver as he opened the line. It wasn’t right, responding to his own request to dock.

“Abort!” Victor nearly shouted into the mic as he responded. “Do not dock, I repeat, do not dock this ship!”

He could feel his heartrate racing as he waited to see if his message was received. His stomach sunk as heard himself repeat the request to dock. Remembering that his own request earlier had been met with static, he refused to accept what he already knew and continued to shout into the mic.

Eventually, the requests stopped coming. A few moments later, a light on a far panel illuminated, a shrill buzzing filling the control room. Dazed, Victor stumbled over to it. The light indicated that one of the external hatches along the aft of the ship had been breached.

February 19, 2024 07:59

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Michael Nohe
22:19 Feb 28, 2024

Comments are upon request from Reedsy Critique Circle. I enjoyed the story. It was quite creative, and the notion of a time loop was clever. The points below are picky and generally don't detract from a strong story, but do exist. This is meant to be helpful in the event you publish this elsewhere. Editing Viewpoint: The piece needs another edit scrubbing as there were a few punctuation errors, repetitive items, and incorrect words. Some examples "...wondered over to"--should be "wandered, make-shift rather than makeshift). Other example...


J.B. Redel
02:40 Mar 21, 2024

Hi there! I know I am a little late replying, but thank you for your review and recommendations! I have heard briefly of Grammarly and other similar programs before but have never taken the time to give it a try. I was so amazed (and equally horrified) at how many gramatical errors it found in my story, that I ended up going through EVERY short story I've ever written and giving it a once (and twice and thrice) over with Grammarly. Hopefully, this will be reflected in my more recent stories, and I have you to thank for that!


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Jordan Verner
21:17 Feb 28, 2024

Very clever- a time loop in space. I liked it.


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