An Unexpected Call

Wait, that’s weird… This data packet’s completely haywire…

It’s been another lame-ass day doing nothing but checking and rechecking of all the junk us humans have been leaving around in our immediate vicinity (astrologically speaking). I monitor the vast amount of astrophysical data collected on a daily basis by the immense fleet of special cameras and whatnots.

Don’t get me wrong, its a highly important job; data must be constantly recorded in order to be examined. And it needs to be examined because we need to understand the world in which we live in and every bit of information we gather would help us understand where we came from. And if we knew where we came from, we can ultimately extrapolate where we might end up. So, if you keep it all in perspective, this is a really, really, really important post to be filled.

Or at least that was the spiel they tossed me. But even back then, I knew what this posting was gonna be; I’d gotten a Masters in Astrodynamics and Computer Science just to become a glorified mail box opener. A secretary does what I do, with qualifications that are a lot more humble.

And though the law may have protected me then, I have no doubt that what I’d done has earned me a black mark in the company. It doesn’t matter what my reasons were, my actions had deemed me immoral and inept in the eyes of higher authority and only my steadfast adherence to technicality had salvaged the situation. The law had protected my job, but it hadn’t protected the rest of my career. And here I am now, finally able to add “Secretary” to my resume under work experience.

It doesn’t help that all the data we collect ends up being all of the same, repeated over and over, sent down in data packets. These monitors we’d sent up in rockets were all antiquated, made in a time when it was faster to record down astrodynamic and light spectrum data (amongst other things) for extrapolation instead of straight up calculation of orbits using computers. And now, with more sophisticated machines, these calculations end up predicting most of the data we’re collecting anyway.

Why do they still need me here? Backup, just in case things don’t go according to the cosmic plan. Because, God-forbid that something might go wrong.

But here’s the thing, I never counted on getting an extra packet of information…

What the… the satellite designated KV-291 had picked up a data packet. This was really weird, considering the fact that I’d never seen this satellite show up in the inbox before. In fact, I had absolutely no idea where this satellite was even located. I decided to look up its orbital path while the data packet downloaded.

A minute of perusal in the manifest made me realise that there was very little information on the specifics of KV-291. All it had said in the updated manifest was that it had been sent up in the early 70s. With a furrowed brow, I decided to take a look at the data packet itself.

It was corrupted. No doubt about it, just from one look I could tell that the jumble of information on my glaring LCD screen was unusable. And yet, it might not be unimportant… I slowly clenched and unclenched my fist in frustration, a habit I’d picked up from months of tedium of sorting through the minutiae of repetitive information.

Wait, I could try using an old compatibility program from the 70s! A high-pitched giggling erupted from my throat and it took a bit of effort to contain it from becoming a cackle; not that I’d care, the “office” I’d been assigned was barely big enough to house a chair, desk and, just barely, a medium sized human being. The closest person was probably a few rooms away, behind numerous walls.

As I booted up the program, I realised that it would probably take an hour or so to decipher the packet. While the computer worked, I went over to the archives room located across the hallway. I bet there’d be more information in there anyway. I sat down at the desk and mentally prepared myself to look through decades of disorganised manifests and logistics reports.

When I’d finally found KV-291, I was about this close to cracking my head open with the heavy files littered around the desk. Thankfully, months of looking at boring data on a screen had prepared me to look at boring data on old paper. And when I found it, it was completely worth it.

Because the manifest had stated that KV-291 had crashed into the Moon in ‘76.

My heart started to race as I continued reading the report. Apparently, it had been sent to orbit the Moon to continuously collect data. Unfortunately, there had been miscalculations involved in its departure; KV-291 had a decaying orbit which resulted in one of the most expensive blunders in all of history. Not many realise it, but the Moon is pretty goddamn far out. The resources alone needed to send it there must have been staggering, not even considering the cost of the equipment itself.

And maybe it was no wonder that nobody had ever heard of it… The implications of such a thing flashed through my mind; public embarrassment, especially during the Cold War, would have been bad. But the thought that kept bugging me the most was simply why? By that point, we’d already put people on the Moon and never left anyone up there anyway. The Moon was deserted. Why bother sending a satellite up there in the first place? Especially such an expensive one at that…

There’s one more thing I had not realised up until now; there was no way in hell that KV-291 had crash landed. For it even to have orbited the Moon, even in a decaying one, it had to have been travelling at immense speed. Any impact with the surface of the Moon would have obliterated any form of transmitter. So how the hell did I even receive that data packet?

A loud beeping noise from my office jerked me out of my ruminations; the compatibility program had done its work. I half-ran, half-limped to my desk and squinted at the screen. Anticipation has me shivering in the sudden cold; this could have been one of the most important finds in recent history. What kind of data would a “crashed” satellite send?

Wait, no. Are those… words?!

It took a moment for my eyes to properly focus on the screen and I could feel cold sweat forming at small of my back. The hairs on the back of my neck creeped up and I suddenly regretted having an office so far from human contact. What in God’s name was happening?

All the message had said was, “Help. Lunar-01 under attack. Base personnel disappearing. Something is hunting us. Help. Help. Help.”

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