The Helix’s communications officer, an attractive, young lieutenant named Ashley Martinez, glanced up from her console, a look of surprise and disbelief on her face. She adjusted her headset to verify what she was hearing. “Captain, I’m receiving a distress call from one of the inner planets, on all channels, priority one. It’s coming from Antos, the fourth planet.”
James turned off his audio recorder and set it to the side. “How is that possible? I thought Antos’s natives were primitive.”
The Helix’s science officer, Lieutenant S’ondra Ala Ola, answered his question from her work station at the back of the bridge. “They are, at least according to the report from the last survey. Either the report is inaccurate, or the message is coming from someone other than the natives.”
James turned to his navigations officer, a lieutenant named Curt Williams, who sat at the work station at the front of the bridge. Williams was an athletic man with dark skin, brown eyes, and a shaved head. “Any sign of other ships in the system?”
“None,” Curt responded, checking the readouts at his station closely. “However, there is a lot of interference, mostly asteroids and other debris, so it’s hard to know for sure.”
James turned to Ashley at her communications station. “Put the message on the view screen.”
An image of a man appeared on the screen at the front of the bridge. The image was badly distorted and the man was barely visible through all the interference. He was standing in a room filled with smoke.
“Can you clean it up a little?” James asked Ashley.
“I’ve tried,” she answered. “That’s the best I can do.”
The man on the screen spoke. His voice was barely audible through all the static. “Anyone out there, please send help. Our main reactor has exploded, and the suppression systems are malfunctioning. Fire is spreading throughout the base. We’re evacuating as quickly as we can, but I don’t know how much longer—”