Today’s inspiration comes from this digital painting from Marcus Lindgren.
The Roanoke was drifting with a clockwise spin port side. It was an old husk, with markings of an empire that burned millennia ago. The design was practical even for how old of tech it was, a hammer head model that could slam through the stars and deal with any lose particles that would rip apart the rest of the hull. The paint was long ago baked white by the local star and wispy cloud of decay seeped from the back of its spent reactor.
“How bad is that radiation?” Tev asked.
“Not terrible. Wouldn’t want to go in there without shielding but the worst would be gone by now.”
“Then what’s that smoke?” He asked. “I don’t think the decay should be that visible to the naked eye.”
Joan chewed her cheek and looked over her console.
“That, that I’m not sure of. We should launch an array.”
“Let’s launch an array. I’d rather be safe than boiled.”
Tev turned his seat and set up the firing pattern. The probe array control let out a soft chirp of confirmation.
“Probes away,” he said.
A dozen lights appeared on the display, each a half meter cylinder filled with sensors, transmitters, and smart analyzers. The screen reacted to the data they broadcasting as they neared the Roanoke’s trail.
“Lots of trace metals,” Tev said. “Radiation but about on par with the earlier readings. Lots of carbon dioxide and water too. It’s almost like wood smoke.”
On the screen, half a dozen of the lights of the probes started to dip into the trail. As quickly as they do, their signals stop.
“I know,” he said. “It’s got to be a chaff effects from the metals and radiation. Nothing to worry about.”
On the screen, the remaining six probes begin to skim the surface of the smoke on their approach to the hull of the Roanoke. Trails of smoke seem to bob up and down under them. Joan reached up and pulled the screen, until the feed zoomed in on the streaking form of a probe, using its own camera to enhance the detail around it.
“Tev, look at this.” On the screen the smoke changed from thick plums to long threads. They pulsed as the probes neared, until one whipped out and slapped a probe. Where it touched the cylinder, the smoke latched on and begin to trail after the little point of light. “It’s pulling it in,” she said. The tendril of smoke following the probe reached and connected with the smoke trail of the derelict. When they connected, the probe was yanked into the wake of the Roanoke.
“The ships changing course,” Tev said. “The Roanoke is changing course.” He paused as the console fed him the derelict’s new direction and speed. “It’s moving to intercept. It’s picking up speed and moving to intercept us.”
I like ghost stories and I love space fiction and so, given the chance, I like to toss out a combo platter of the two. Space is a mysterious place, and already we’re starting to cloud it up with old tech and pieces of history. In ten, twenty, and thirty thousand years what will be up there for our descendants to find? What treasure or knowledge might be discovered and lost before it’s returned to the future of human society?
What should have stayed lost?