Space Race

Originally published in Bewildering Stories in April 2013 (link)

It was a miserable morning following a miserable tornado weekend. Ted Parker stood by his living room window, watching the streets covered in debris, papers and mud puddles. He sipped from his coffee cup, more slowly than usual, a bit disappointed that his car was still in driving condition — covered in twigs, leaves and a few copies of the Utuado Daily, but still drivable.

Dammit, he thought, this is no day to go out.

He reached for his pocket, but the phone rang first. Ted clicked his wireless earbud and sighed loudly. “What’s up?”

“Sir, we need you here now! We have contact.”

Ted put his cup down and dashed out the door.

About an hour and a half later he walked into the lab, drenched head to toe. The three assistants greeted him with frozen faces and stiff lips.

“Sir, the message came today at 6:45 a.m.,” one of the assistants said. “The station intercepted it and started processing it immediately. It took about an hour to decipher.”

Ted shook the water off his hands and threw the broken umbrella to the floor. He pushed his hair back and looked at the lab chief. “Mr. Sian, can I get a complete answer as to what exactly is going on?”

Mr. Sian arranged his round glasses and pointed to the screen. “The message, sir, was encrypted with an old, old cipher. It was a series of ten consecutive, identical, 232-bit sequences, five seconds of silence between them. The computer broke off one sequence and ran it through our standard decipher filters—”


“Well,” Mr. Sian put his hands behind his back and pursed his lips. “The bits were a representation of a Morse Code sequence. When transcribed we obtained a string of twenty-nine characters. We ran this text through all known decryption algorithms and we got this.” Mr. Sian pointed to a piece of paper on the desk.

Ted leaned over the desk and looked at the paper. He first glanced at the top right corner where the time stamp appeared right below the agency’s logo: September, 14 2132 07:12. He then looked at the rest of the report, which contained a single line of text.

“What the hell does this mean?”

“It’s Latin, sir,” Mr. Sian said. ‘Venimus. Exspectatae ordines.’ It means: ‘We have arrived. Awaiting instructions’.”

Ted shook his head. “I don’t get it. A message from space, in Latin, in Morse code? That doesn’t make any sense.”

“And it gets even stranger, sir,” Mr. Sian added. “The text itself was encrypted with a simple algorithm used during World War II by the Allied Forces.”

Ted looked at Mr. Sian with wide eyes. “Well, that still doesn’t help me understand what this means.” He shook his head and walked toward the door. “This information doesn’t leave this room, got it? I have to make the call,” he said and closed the door behind him.

Frank turned off his tablet and put it back in its sleeve. Too much news, too little information. He pressed the remote button and the back window darkened. He selected one of the sports channels, reclined in the soft armchair and turned the back massager on.

“Danny, come get your toys,” Frank said, and his little boy ran into the living room. “Clean up, come on.”

Danny smiled and picked two of the wireless robots with his hands.

“Okay, okay, well done,” Frank said, “now, take them away.”

“Dinner is ready!” A crystal voice came from the kitchen.

The boy was startled.

“Now you’re gonna get it,” Frank said with a sly smile.

Andrea entered the living room, with her red oven-mitts, hands on her waist. “Dinner… Danny, what did I say about toys being everywhere?”

The boy turned around and ran through the other door.

“You know, sometimes—”

Frank got up from the chair and gave her a bear hug and then kissed her forehead.

“I love it when you’re angry—”

“Shut up,” she said and her cheeks got red. “Let’s eat.”

Frank took a long breath and was about to follow her into the kitchen, when the doorbell rang.

“I’ll get it,” he said.

Frank looked at the inside door monitor and saw two army men: a lieutenant and a sergeant. He didn’t know any of them, so most likely they were not from his unit. He clicked the verification button and the computer returned a green light. ‘Fingerprint ID verified,’ the door said.

“Okay, then,” Frank whispered and pressed the open button.

The door slid into the wall and Frank faced the two army men.

“Sir!” The lieutenant clicked his heels and gave a salute.

Frank saluted them back. “How can I help you, gentlemen?”

The lieutenant handed him a tablet bearing the U.S. Army logo.

This cannot be good, Frank thought, weighing the tablet in his hand. He pressed his thumb on the fingerprint pad and the screen lit up. Frank scanned the text and a cold block of ice traveled up and down his back. He clenched his teeth and gave the tablet back to the officer.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “give me fifteen minutes to get ready. I will meet you at the craft.”

The lieutenant saluted, spun around and left.

Frank walked slowly toward the kitchen slowly; he hoped he would never make it there.

“Who was that?” Andrea said and turned around.

He walked into the kitchen and she looked in his eyes. She saw his face and covered her mouth.

“No…” she said with a whimper.

Frank arrived at the Houston Space Academy seven hours later. He was greeted by two generals and a tall balding man with a thick pair of glasses barely hanging on his crooked nose.

“General Stevens,” Frank said and saluted.

“Frank, let’s keep it casual.”

Frank nodded. “My pleasure. So what is this about, Dan?”

“This is General Henry Anderson, and this is Mr. Ted Parker, our attaché at the Puerto Rico radio station. Gentlemen, meet Colonel Frank Hicks.”

General Anderson extended his hand. “It’s an honor, Frank. Our gratitude for your contributions to the Space Program is hard to quantify.”

“Same here, sir,” Ted said and shook Frank’s hand. “It’s a privilege to meet the man who holds the record for most hours spent in space.”

Frank chuckled and shrugged. “Well, I am sure it will not be for long.”

“Actually,” General Anderson said and leaned forward, “that might not be necessarily true.”

“What do you mean? The Academy is full of new cadets. I am sure—”

“Just follow me, Frank. We have something to show you.”

Danny hid his face in his mother’s shoulder. “Mommy, how long will Daddy be gone?”

Andrea squeezed him close and wiped a tear. She turned the TV volume louder, afraid Danny would hear her heart pounding.

“He will be gone a long time, honey, a really long time. Why… There he is!”

Danny jumped in his seat. Andrea bumped the TV even louder.

On screen, General Stevens took the podium, flanked by Frank on the right and another officer on the left.

“Ladies and gentlemen, members of the press, as you know I am here today to announce the next leap of our society toward the discovery of the Universe. Over the last twenty years NASA has been working relentlessly to perfect the WARP engine. Right now we are in a position to tell you that our very first true interstellar trip is about to take place on July 21st, 2136. Please welcome the leader of the Equinoxii Mission, General Frank Hicks.”

Andrea covered her mouth and sobbed.

“Look, Mommy, it’s Daddy!”

She shook her head and looked at Frank’s sweet smile. He always knew when to smile.

“Thank you, General, for this kind introduction—”

Andrea covered her ears. How could she live without his voice? How could she survive for sixteen years?

Frank coughed and cleared his throat. He walked forward and scanned the room. Ten people watched him with curious eyes, some wearing uniforms; others, casual civilian clothes.

Frank felt older today. He combed his hair with his fingers, trying to hide any signs of white threads.

“Cadets, men and women of science… You are here today, because you are the best. And where we’re going, we only need the best.”

Frank walked closer and observed their eyes: inquisitive, wondering, and full of hope.


All hands shoot up as one.

Frank took a deep breath and pursed his lips. “Let’s take it left to right, shall we? There?”

A cadet stood up and saluted. “Sir, McAvoy, sir. I was wondering, where are we going?”

Frank scoffed and lifted his palms. “A very good starting question, right?” He pressed a button on his remote and the 3D sky map appeared behind them.

“As you know, the destination of this unique expedition has been kept secret until recently. But now I am in the position to tell you that we are heading here…”

A red dot appeared in the center of the 3D map.

“M74-Celeii, a planet about eight light years away. Mr. Parker…”

Ted stepped in from the back of the room. “Four years ago, a radio message was received from outer space. By calculating the exact position of the stars and working our way backwards we were able to predict with a high accuracy that the signal must have originated in this space vicinity.

“We extended our research in the area and we are able to predict the existence of a planet in this location, orbiting a red dwarf. Based on our research, the temperature on the surface is slightly lower than the Earth’s, due to its distance from the star, and its gravity is lower, due to the approximate size of the planet—”

“But why here? And what was the message?”

Ted turned around. “Ms…?”

“Jessica Turner, Boston Chemical Institute.”

“Nice to meet you, Jessica. The WARP engine was completed and has been in tests for years. It was only recently coupled to the space station Equinoxii—”

“NASA needs to do a live test for this spaceship,” Frank said, “and this message provided us a good target. Man’s eyes have been scouting the dark corners of the universe for a few hundred years and yet we haven’t found anything or anyone—”

“So,” Ted intervened, “this gave us the perfect reason.”

“And what was the message?”

Ted glanced at Frank. Frank nodded. “The message was ‘We are waiting for you’.”

A murmur swarmed through the room and people looked at each other. Frank cleaned his forehead of sweat and swallowed a knot.

On July 21, 2136, at 2:00 pm, Frank said a prayer. He knew it was going to be one of the last conscious thoughts he would have for the next eight years. The metal cocoon closed over his body and he felt the chemicals starting to run through his veins.

He opened his eyes and looked at the picture of Danny and Andrea he had glued on the inside, despite the protests of the doctor. He winked at them. When he returned, Danny would be twenty years old.

Frank sighed and everything went black.

The crew came out of cryo seven days prior to reaching the target destination. Frank woke up at the sight of his son and wife and he felt good, but just for a brief moment. As soon as he had to move out of the metal cocoon, the pain in his back became unbearable.

“Quickly, everyone to the training deck, we need to get our bodies back in shape,” said the doctor.

Frank touched his face. The chemicals and cryo slowed the general metabolism of the body, but his face was still covered with a thick beard and his hair was like a bush.

McAvoy came up to Frank. “Sir, may I point out that we all look like savages, sir?”

Frank laughed. “Let’s get cleaned up, soldier. Seven days should be enough for that.”

Over those seven days, the spaceship’s computer adjusted the trajectory to approach the M74 planet. The red dwarf shone in the dark void like a never-ending candle.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

Frank nodded. “How are you hanging in there?”

“I’m okay,” Jessica said. “Much better since I showered.”

Frank chuckled and pointed to the screen. “We are getting closer. We have a landing space, we should touch ground in twenty-four hours.”

“I can’t wait,” Jessica responded. “I hope it’s worth sixteen years of our lives.”

Is anything worth it? Frank thought.

The ship landed smoothly and adjusted itself in a perfectly horizontal position. The crew met on the main deck and Frank stood proudly in front of them, wearing his perfect uniform.

“Crew, we are the first humans to step foot on a planet farther than any expedition has ever been before. I’d like to say it is a large step for humankind—”

“But that’s already taken!”

Frank laughed. “Exactly. So, let’s do our work and see what we can find. Our mission will last five days and then we shall return to Earth.”

“Amen!” Jessica said.

McAvoy stepped forward. “Sir, the chemical analysis shows no signs of radiation or toxic gases. There are low levels of oxygen so I recommend we wear our gear, but overall the atmosphere should be acceptable. There are high winds and low temperatures.”

“Thank you, McAvoy. Geography?”

McAvoy turned toward a bearded man wearing a pair of square glasses. “Smith?”

“Yes,” Smith said and nodded, “based on the imagery and the scan, the terrain is covered with buildings and what appears to be some sort of infrastructure. The buildings’ heights indicate that most likely there are no earthquakes or other similar phenomena. The heat scanners didn’t pick up any moving entities, but we really don’t know what materials these structures are made of.”

“Okay, so Team One will follow me to the surface. Team Two will stay put and monitor our every move. Let’s go!”

One of the cadets gave a quick salute. “Sir, I will prepare a transmission and have it ready for whenever you are ready.”

“Thank you, Dimitri. Have it ready and I will add something later on.”

The cadet spun on his heel and disappeared through a door.

Frank leaped in front of his team, enjoying the low gravity that allowed him to jump ten feet at a time. His heart slowed down and he felt a strange sense of calm. An uncanny heat covered his skin.

“Do you guys feel this?”

“Yes,” Jessica responded, “it’s like a tingling in the skin, right?”

Frank winked at her and she smiled back. “It’s probably the low gravity, it affects the body’s circulatory system.”

“I am not sure if that’s it, but it’s darn relaxing.”

Frank continued to leap forward and eventually reached the edge of the hill. He stopped and looked down toward the buildings. The others stopped next to him.

“It’s an alien city, folks.”

He admired the giant buildings, shaped like pyramids, and the complex infrastructure of roads and bridges connecting the buildings between each other.

“It seems dead, though,” McAvoy said.

Frank nodded and activated his video camera. Jessica grabbed his arm. “Look!”

In the distance, between two of the pyramid buildings, a vehicle appeared, gliding over one of the suspended roads, projecting a beam of light forward.

“What is that?” McAvoy asked.

“Not sure,” Frank responded, “but have weapons ready. Let’s get closer.”

They walked downhill toward the city entrance, and Frank kept his eyes on the approaching vehicle. It switched lanes and roads, obviously trying to get closer to them.

Frank stepped on the road and stopped for a moment. He squatted and touched the surface. Metal. Metal roads, he thought.

By this time the gliding vehicle popped behind a corner and was headed straight in their direction.

“It’s floating,” Jessica said.

“Probably magnetic,” Frank said in a low voice.

The vehicle stopped short, less than twenty feet away. Its side doors opened upward and out of the vehicle came four men. Frank’s eyes widened and his heart skipped a beat. They were men, no different from any other man he had ever seen. One of them appeared to be in his sixties, the others maybe a bit younger. The older one walked first.

“What the hell,” McAvoy whispered.

The man stopped in front of Frank. Frank measured him up and down and looked deep in his eyes. He had a strong, straight jaw and a certain warmth that made Frank relax and let his breath out. The man smiled and extended his hand.

Frank grabbed it and shook it. “Colonel Frank Hicks, United States Army.”

The man gave a quick nod and squeezed back. “Gagarin, Colonel Yuri Gagarin, Soviet Cosmonaut.”

Frank froze and for a moment, and his knees turned to water. He then coughed and cleared his throat, still clenching the man’s hand.


The man nodded again. “Yuri Gagarin, Polkovnik, Soviet Air Force.”

Frank listened to his strong Russian accent and wondered if the atmosphere was playing a game on him. The man let go of his hand and pointed to the other three.

“Andrey Titov, Nikolay Bykovskoy, and Alexei Popovich.”

The three men gave a quick salute.

“Soviet Air Force,” the man added.

Frank shook his head. “I don’t understand, the Soviet Union disappeared some one hundred and forty years ago, and Yuri Gagarin” — he paused and looked the man deep in his eyes — “the first man in space, died about two hundred years ago.”

The man scoffed and put his hands in his pocket. “It sure seemed that way, it sure did. Come, come to vehicle. We explain everything at headquarters.”

Frank looked back at his team and gave a quick nod to McAvoy. “McAvoy, Jessica and Smith, you come with me. The others, return to Equinoxii and await orders.”

Frank then turned his head to the Russian. “Let’s go then… Colonel Gagarin.”

After a ten-minute glide over the intricate streets and bridges, the vehicle pulled inside one of the buildings. After a brief pause, the craft shot up through a vertical shaft that led upwards for a few levels. Frank exited first and looked around what looked like a warehouse packed with electronics.

“Please, please,” Gagarin said and motioned them toward a table, “have seat in our humble office.”

The four Russians sat across the table and Frank joined his team on the other side.

“You can take your masks off, your body will breathe.”

“But the oxygen—”

“Trust me” — Gagarin cut McAvoy off — “we’ve been here for one hundred and fifty-three years. You can breathe.”

Frank looked at his team and gave them a quick nod. They took off their helmet and disconnected the breathing tube. Frank took a deep breath and felt dizzy.

“Give it a bit of time, it will adjust to you.”

Frank coughed and swallowed a few times. “One hundred and fifty-three years?” Frank said watching Gagarin with narrow eyes. “Could you explain that?”

“I wish I could…” Gagarin began. “Tea?”

“No, thank you.”

Gagarin shrugged. “As you wish.” He poured himself a cup and sipped it with pleasure. “We can’t explain, but our biologist, Alexei was able to identify that on this planet the metabolism is decreased and cell aging is slowed so much that a human ages the equivalent of one year in about fifteen Earth years. We arrived here in 1983. I was 49. That makes me about sixty or so.”

Frank took another deep breath, trying to wrap his head around it.

“I’ve never heard of a Russian mission in space during the 80’s, and that still doesn’t explain why you are alive.”

Gagarin took another sip of his tea and looked deep into Frank’s eyes.

“Krasnoyarsk Krai, Siberia.”

Frank tilted his head and raised his brows. “Yes?”

“1908, Tugunska River—”

“Second largest meteoroid strike,” McAvoy said looking at Frank, “after the Turkish asteroid of 2093.”

“Tz-tz,” Gagarin shook his head, “only that it was not meteoroid strike…” Gagarin paused and looked at each of the Americans one by one. “It was Russia’s best-kept secret. It was an alien spaceship.”

Frank recoiled and pursed his mouth. “Alien craft?”

“Yes, like your Roswell.”

Frank shrugged and shook his head.

“No time for games now, Mr. Hicks. We both know you also had a craft, the only difference is, your craft was part of a mothership and was unable to fly on its own. The Tugunska ship was a mothership.”

“Okay,” Frank said and leaned over the table, “so how does that explain anything?”

“Well,” Gagarin said leaning back in his seat, “you see, the Roswell ship had information on board, information that we needed and got from our informants.”

Frank’s skin started to crawl and he felt a knot in his stomach.

“We were able to activate the alien ship in the sixties, I think around sixty-three, just two years after I made the first step in space.”

Frank watched his face glow as he spoke and for a moment saw his eyes fade away into a distant space. Gagarin shook his head out of memory lane and pointed his finger at Frank.

“Khrushchev himself created the Russian Space Conqueror team, and any member of the Russian Airforce was happy to join it. We four are a part of that team.” Gagarin looked at his team mates and they all nodded.

“You see, we had to disappear, so we all ‘died.’ I mean, I flew into space, do you think I would really crash down and burn in a simple jet?”

Frank tried to jog his memory and remember what he had learned in space history.

“No, I wouldn’t. But I chose to be dead,” Gagarin added getting red in the face. “It was our decision, for our country.”

Frank lifted his hands. “I see, then what?”

“1975, late spring. We were doing tests and suddenly the ship came alive. I remember like it was yesterday, the entire ship vibrated and there was a sharp sound. So the team went on board to check the status and all I can remember was a bright light, nothing more.”

Alexei leaned over the table and tapped his finger. “I thought I had died and gone to heaven, but I woke up next to a wall.”

“So, what happened?” Jessica said.

Gagarin shrugged. “We couldn’t figure it out, but we did realize that the ship took off and disappeared somewhere far away. It landed here and we found this land void of any life, but clearly host to life before.”

“So,” Frank said rubbing his chin, “you think the ship leaped here by itself?”

“Returned to base,” Alexei said. “That’s what we thought. Somehow we activated the ship’s mechanism and it simply returned home.”

Frank pouted his mouth and took a deep breath. “Okay, so, why didn’t you come back?”

“We couldn’t,” Gagarin said. “First of all, we had no idea where we were in time or space. Second, we were surrounded by all this foreign technology. It took us a really long time to decipher their tools, to understand the technology.”

Alexei tapped his palm on the table. “Do you even realize how difficult is it to understand where you are in space, once you no longer have a point of reference? And, believe me, we are all men of science here.”

Gagarin laughed and pulled up his left wrist. “This was our best tool for years: Pobeda watch, Russian made, 1960. We had no idea what time it was, but we did know to keep track of time with this mechanical marvel.”

Nikolai elbowed Gagarin and scoffed. “Remember how we used to take turns making sure it was always wound and never stopped?”

“We were scared, you know,” Gagarin said. “But soon we started to dig through the materials here. We discovered vehicles, sky mapping tools, communication tools. We just didn’t know how to use them.”

Frank shook his head and took one deep breath. “Wow, I can only imagine. So, what is the source of energy here?”

Gagarin got up from the chair, took a final sip of his tea, and started to walk around the table with hands behind his back.

“Before we left, our scientists removed a metal tube from the ship. We didn’t know what it was, we couldn’t open it, we couldn’t cut through it. None of the existing scanners showed us anything. It was literally a closed box. Only after years of research here, we came to realize that whoever lived here, whatever civilization existed on this planet… they ran away. We can’t possibly know why, but they ran away. The Mothership carried that cylinder, and we found a place here, where we think it fits.”

“What do you think it is?” McAvoy asked with wide eyes.

Alexei raised his bushy eyebrows. “We believe it is the switch.”

“The switch?” Frank asked. “What do you mean?”

“You see,” Nikolai said with in a rusty voice, “there are things that work here. Some transport vehicles, some electronics. They all run on a peculiar energy that comes from a material unknown to us. But almost all of this entire city, of the planet, is dead. We think that the entire secret lies in that metallic cylinder that made its way to Earth.”

Gagarin returned to the table and rested his hands on it. “We think that if we can get that item back here, we can light up this entire city. It can be the very first human colony, and it’s already built and ready to run.”

Frank felt a chill and his heart raced. “And can you imagine how much we can learn from here?”

“Exactly,” Alexei added, “it’s just a stepping stone for so much more.”

“The boundaries of the Universe will be so much closer.”

Gagarin’s eyes opened wide and he looked toward the ceiling. “We can explore other worlds, far-away galaxies.”

Jessica clapped her hands together. “We can finally be the kings of our Universe.”

“Exactly,” Gagarin answered and pointed his finger toward her.

“And you can use our ship to return to Earth! It will be the greatest project ever!”

Frank looked at Jessica and grinned. “The most unexpected turn of the first human expedition into space.”

Gagarin laughed and shook his finger. “Not the first, not the first,” he said.

“Well,” Frank shook his head. “Right, your expedition was the first, but ours is the first known to the people. But imagine the shock that everyone will have.”

McAvoy wiped his forehead of sweat. “I can’t even think of it. So, when are we going back?”

Gagarin put his hands behind him and straightened his back. “I think you got this all wrong, my American friend.”

“What do you mean?” Frank said and wrinkled his forehead.

“You…” Gagarin answered with a nod of the head, “you are never going back.”

Frank jumped up from his chair but before he got a chance to speak an elevator opened loudly at the far end of the room.

“What is this?” Frank yelled when he saw Dimitri coming out of the transport.

Dimitri approached the table and gave a short salute.

“What are you doing here?” Frank barked. “You are supposed to be on the ship.”

Dimitri looked in Frank’s eyes for a brief moment, and then turned toward Gagarin. He clicked his heels and gave a straight salute.

“Colonel Gagarin!”

Gagarin extended his hand and shook it forcefully.

“You…” Frank said, breathing heavily.

“Colonel Frank Hicks,” Alexei said rising up from his chair, “you still underestimate the efficiency of Russian infiltrators.”

Alexei turned toward Dimitri and gave him a short salute.

“General Karpov, at your service,” Dimitri responded.

Frank kicked his chair, jumped back and pulled out his laser gun.

“And you underestimated the strength of an American laser gun, and my ability to torch you to pieces.”

McAvoy jumped up as well, pulled his gun and pointed it toward Gagarin’s head.

“I too was once a fan of Western movies,” Gagarin said with a grin. “Too bad we don’t have the music.”

Frank pulled the trigger, but nothing happened.

“Colonel Hicks, look at that screen,” Gagarin said and motioned toward a wall-mounted monitor. “That is your entire crew, currently in a deep sleep, locked down in a secret location. If you do not want them all dead in the next ten minutes, you will put down your weapons and join us in a little training session.”

Gagarin walked slowly around the table and approached Frank with small steps. When he got close, he leaned forward and whispered directly in his ear. “We always wanted to learn how to pilot a true American space ship.”

A loud laughter echoed in the metallic room and Frank felt sick.

Andrea put her arm around Danny’s shoulders. He was taller than her now, and looked so much like his father she felt a sting in her heart every time she looked at him.

The street was overly crowded and they found a good place next to a bus stop, where they could lean against a pole. The parade just started to pass in front of them. Danny turned his head and gave his mother a kiss on the forehead.

She sighed loudly and grabbed the medal in her hand. “Danny, I can’t do this. Can we please go home?”

Danny nodded. “We can mom. No parade can ever bring him back.”

Back home Danny went into his father’s office. It was the only room in the house that had never changed in the last seventeen years.

Danny sat in his father’s chair and looked at the dreaded letter they received that day, ten years ago. He glanced over it, even though he knew it too well.

‘We regret to inform you that the spaceship Equinoxii has been declared lost as we were unable to establish communication for ten years and two months. Please contact your local U.S. Army…”

Danny cleaned a tear from his cheek and turned on the TV. He switched to the news he had set to record earlier and reclined in the chair.

“The Russian Space Academy announced today the launch of a new space station. The destination is undisclosed, but the Russian commander declared that it will be one of the very first true human space colony. Here he is, as recorded earlier today.”

Danny watched an old man appear on TV. Straight jaw, kind eyes. He must have been in his late seventies.

“The Soviet Union launched the very first man into space in 1961. Today, in the year 2154, the New United Russian Federation will create the very first human colony in space.”

Ted drank a full glass of red wine and chuckled while reading his retirement card. The team could barely fit all the signatures into the tablet space.

The door opened and one of the lab technicians stepped in.


“Yes,” Ted responded.

“I know this is your last day and all, but we have received a strange message—”

“Why don’t you hand it to Mr. Trent, that’s a good way for him to start.”

“I think this message is particular to you, sir?”

Ted spun in his chair. “And you say that because?”

The technician opened his arms wide and smiled awkwardly. “You see, sometimes in the past you set up a rule in the mainframe. It was never triggered until today. The rule stated that if we ever received a message that falls under the rule’s filters, we should let you know immediately.”

Ted felt his face becoming red and a knot tied in his throat.

“What’s the message?”

“It’s in Latin—”

“What’s the message?!” Ted screamed squeezing the chair.

The technician pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. “It says: Adhuc viveret. Eripe nos.”

Ted’s heart started pounding. “Still alive. Rescue us,” he whispered.