Life on Tyre station followed a
very specific pattern: the scientists that manned the station woke
up, collected the samples that the automated rovers dropped
overnight, tested said samples, found nothing of interest, complained
to each other about it, and then went to bed. Any deviation from
routine was met with immense disapproval from the station’s
came as a shock to many when it word was leaked that one of the top
scientists, Holden Graves, was whisked away in the night without a
word. Holden was the stations leading biologist and was acting head
of Project Phaethon, whose mission statement was to find life among
the moons of Jupiter. It was long before the station was abuzz with
Howse never paid attention to rumors. He was there to find proof of
life outside of Earth. Anything outside of that was a distraction.
old buddy, you here about Holden?” Alexander’s fellow scientist,
Jordan Pelios, held no such aversion to rumor mill.
heard he’s no longer on the station. Beyond that I haven’t heard
now,” Jordan said. “I know you had to have heard something.
You’re practically Holden’s number 2! I know you’ve gotta know
know nothing.” In the back of his mind, Alexander was praying that
Jordan would pick up on his tone and leave him alone. He knew odds
were low, but he could still hope.
if you’re not going to confess to knowing anything, I’ll at least
tell you what I heard. The prevailing theory is that Graves actually
found something, something big, and was carried off into the night to
be debriefed before they let the whole system know.”
That’s impossible,” Alexander replied. While not official, Jordan
wasn’t wrong when he said Alexander was functionally Holden’s
second in command. The two of them had been out on the edge of space
together for decades, and if one of them had found something they
would have told the other.
live in a space ship that jumps from Jovian moon to Jovian moon and
you want to talk about stuff being impossible? That’s a good one,”
Jordan laughed at Alexander’s naivety.
know what I mean. There’s no way they could keep something like
that secret from the rest of us.”
“Technically, if he did
find something, they didn’t keep it secret because that’s all
everyone is talking about.”
you say,” and with a dismissive waive, Alexander chose to end the
conversation and went back to his work. Try as he might, the nagging
thought that Jordan might be right wouldn’t leave Alexander’s
the next several days the rumor mill began to burst at the seams:
Holden had discovered alien life, Holden had discovered advanced
alien life, Holden discovered advanced alien life that originated
from outside the solar system, Holden found proof that the various
governments that sponsored their endeavour were actually using their
research to develop some kind of biological super weapon. All of
these rumors found their way back to Alexander despite his best
efforts to stay out of him. His friendship with Holden made him the
prime target for anyone looking to get more information. After a
couple days of practically screaming at people to leave him alone, he
had finally had enough, he decided to commit himself to finding out
what happened to Holden.
to the shipmaster were met with stoic glares. Despite his assurances
that he was merely concerned for the safety of his friend, the
individuals in charge of the expedition refused to comment. Despite
his best efforts at getting them to understand that their silence was
only adding fuel to the fires of speculation, he was forcibly removed
from the command deck and told to stop asking questions.
his better judgment, Alexander decided to visit his old friend’s
quarters. As he rounded the corner, he saw the door flanked by two
guards. Without a pause, Alexander kept walking. Being manned by
mostly scientists, it was odd for the guards to actually be utilized.
The only time they ever saw any action was when someone occasionally
had too much to drink and were needed to break up a drunken “fight”.
Hackles raised, Alexander went straight to Jordan.
need you help,” Alexander said to Jordan, catching the latter by
he said pensively. “What do you need?”
“I need you to try
and access Holden’s logs. Look for anything that might shed some
clues as to what might have happened to him.”
thought you said it was impossible that Holden could have discovered
anything,” Jordan replied with a smug tone.
don’t know what to believe right now. I just walked by his quarters
and they had guards stationed outside.”
you serious?” Jordan asked.
I don’t know if he discovered anything, but he definitely didn’t
leave the ship of his own volition. We need to find out what happened
to him.” Alexander gestured to Jordan’s computer in an attempt to
have him get to work.
I’ll help. If they can make him disappear in the middle of the
night, God only knows what they could do to the rest of us.” With
that, Jordan went to work. Being the computer system’s architect,
Jordan had full access to all the ships the logs. This wasn’t the
first time he had gone snooping, but he knew that if he got caught,
this could be the last. After a couple hours of fruitless searching,
he resigned himself with a heavy sigh.
hate to say it, but I got nothing.”
do you mean?”
“I mean,” Jordan sat up, “that there is
zero trace of what happened to Holden. There isn’t even a record of
a shuttle launch that would have carried him off the ship! One day he
was here, and the next he wasn’t.”
what about his research logs?” Alexander couldn’t believe that
his friend had just disappeared.
up to snuff and nothing special in them. The only thing out of the
norm that I could find was a message between captain and someone back
on Earth talking about Holden and something called the d’Anconia
Protocol? What’s that supposed to be?” Howse thought he knew all
the different governing protocol’s that outlined their mission, but
he had never heard of this one.
about to find out,” a voice behind the pair said. They jumped and
turned around to find the chief of security and several guards now
standing in the room.
How’s it going?” Jordan tried to remain calm but the tremor in
his voice gave away his bluff.
not try to be friendly with me Mr.Pelios. You and Mr.Howse are
several worlds worth of trouble.”
Alexander said, “we weren’t trying to cause trouble. No one could
give us a straight answer as to what happened to Holden and we were
just trying to make sure our friend was okay.”
the problem with you scientific types,” the chief said. “You ask
too many questions and don’t know how to leave well enough alone.
Mr.Graves was unable to accept the chain of command, he constantly
questioned decisions made by the leaders of this expedition. In his
mind, he felt he could take over the ship. Sedition is not something
that’s generally looked upon very kindly.”
what does that have to do with us and this d’Anconia Protocol?”
At this point Jordan was no longer able to keep the fear out of his
d’Anconia Protocol is put into affect when elements of the crew
feel the need to take the burden of leadership upon themselves,”
the chief said. “If any crew member begins to stoke
anti-governmental sentiments, calls for a general labor strike, or
just gets too uppity overall, we make sure that person is no longer a
member of the crew. Guards,” with a waive of the chief’s hand,
the guards raised their weapons and fired.
awoke to find himself drifting in the void of space. Years of
spacewalks kept him calm, but he could feel his heart rate rising.
Directly in front of him, Jupiter was visibly growing.
see you’re awake,” the voice of the security chief crackled in
“What’s going on?! What did you do?” Panic
merely did what was within my rights to put down a potential
rebellion before it even started. We know how much you science types
enjoy the gas giants, so we decided if the time ever came, it would
be a fitting end to send you into their embrace.” With those words
the comm went silent.
Howse struggled against the inevitable. His suit had no thrusters, no
way to alter course. He flailed wildly as the king of the solar
system grew larger and larger. After a time he accepted his end and
stared calmly into the swirling mists of the rapidly approaching
planet. As he hit the outer edges of the atmosphere, he could feel
the temperature of the suit increase. After less than sixty seconds,
he was no more.