Settlers of the Void


Trent Robertson

Trent Robertson was the first of the crew to go outside. He broke orders to do so, which Martinez has been emphasizing repeatedly in her last few messages to us.

Oversight should have locked the door. Somebody should have stopped him. But that’s just hindsight. What happened to Trent could have happened to anybody, and once he passed through the airlock there was nothing anybody could do to stop him: he was out, he was free, he was on the surface of PIB-1176.

He just started walking.

We watched through the tiny windows of Hangar 5 as Trent trudged away from the ship. Some of us put on suits to follow him (or maybe rescue him, if necessary). But by then Oversight had secured the exit and nobody could leave.

Trent seemed happy outside. Ecstatic, even. He took his time and walked slowly.

About a thousand yards from the Hierophant, Trent took a step from black ground onto gray and the momentum of that step never ended. He fell, maybe he fell forever, and because the suits are soundproof we never heard him scream. Trent’s body plummeted into the dust and then he was gone.

We’re calling them dropholes. They’re spaces of gray where the ground seems solid but isn’t. Further probing by the drones has shown that the planet’s full of them: they’re remnants of old volcanoes that have been steadily filling up with fine-grained particles of ash for thousands of years.

Afterwards we held a funeral in the cafeteria and nobody had much of anything to say. Nobody is too keen to be on the away team now, either.

#

I found the rats. They built a nest in one of the ventilation ducts leading to the server clusters. It’s a good place to hide. Nobody goes down that way too much and it’s warm from all the processing power spent keeping Oversight alive.

There were about twenty rats in total and as far as I can tell they haven’t been eating anything important. They don’t look like the rats in the sims. They’re skinny, miserable little creatures totally adapted to a life of hunger, running through tubes, and hiding from loud noises.

I didn’t kill them and I didn’t report their location. Dawn is right. The rats deserve a chance to start a new life here too.