“Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. Is that true? Can nobody…hear me?”
Jonathan floated weightlessly in space, surrounded by parts and pieces of the wreckage that was ‘The Expedition’, his ship. Far off in the distance, there was an ocean of stars. His breath was the only audible sound; within his space suit, it sounded like gas routinely escaping from a valve. His suit itself was made of thick, layered, white material, with a blue ‘UE’ (United Earth) logo in the centre of the chest. He’d forgotten how long he’d been floating aimlessly amongst the wreckage, the only survivor of his crew. He’d survived the attack by a miracle, somehow avoiding the hull explosion, only to be met with a crueller fate - a slow, cold, painful death, waiting for his oxygen to run out.
“If there isn’t…if there isn’t anyone listening, then these are probably the last few minutes of my life. This is Captain Jonathan Myers. It’s been a privilege to serve United Earth.” Jonathan said into his radio softly. He began to shiver as the effects of hypothermia began to set in.
Jonathan gasped suddenly as he saw an upside-down face appear in front of him from above. It was clearly some kind of alien since it seemed to be able to exist in space without any supportive clothing or breathing mechanisms. It had mostly human-like features; eyes, a nose and a mouth. It was bipedal, with fingers and toes. It had what looked like dark green hair, although it was of the same texture as the rest of its green body. It had a feminine shape and form, though without any remarkable features. Otherwise aside from its colour, its only discernible non-human features were a tail that was noticeably thicker at its tip (presumably to help it balance), unusually large eyes and cat-like whiskers.
“Am I hallucinating?” Jonathan thought aloud.
The alien gracefully spun around, so it was facing Jonathan the right way up. It looked at him in a curious, human-like way, as if it were showing empathy. Jonathan smiled at the creature, his breathing slowing down.
“She’s so beautiful.” He said to himself. “Incredible. I’m glad I got to see her…before the end…”
Captain Jonathan Myers drew his last breath, and his consciousness faded away.
On a nearby planet, the sound of steel and stone filled the audible airspace. There was no sun, but several moons, creating a perpetual aurora of blue and purple hues across the sky. The terrain was rocky and mountainous, with no signs of life except for purple moss that grew on the rock formations, and fluorescent insects that consumed it. Life on the planet was simple and silent. There was another life-form present though, which was neither simple nor silent.
As far as the eye could see, there were metallic constructions digging into the stone below. Below the surface, they had dug intricate tunnels and burrows, all of which led in one way or another to a temporary main chamber that had been forged from the hollowed contents of the subsurface. In this underground camp, there were red lights placed on all sides that gave heat to those who had placed them there. On the ground, there were a number of black, semi-spherical shells that were used as buildings; either for storage, accommodation, engineering or experimentation. Each shell-shaped building lead inwards to the largest shell at the centre of the burrow.
Within this shell, at the centre of the room was laid a circular table with a map and other placeholders. Around the table sat half a dozen large, slug-shaped creatures. They ranged in size from six to twelve feet tall, with two to four arms, at the end of which were fat, three-fingered hands. Along their backs was a brown, hard, cracked shell of sorts, which continued around their round heads, resembling somewhat of a helmet. They breathed artificial air through two snake-light slits in their face and spoke from a large, gaping mouth. These creatures were known as Kabudon, named after their home planet of Kabukai.
The largest Kabudon (who would by tradition be the rightful leader within any group of them) sat at the end of the table from the direction of the entrance.
“Masu”, one of the others began, using the formal term to address one’s superior. “We’ve been here for three suns already, and are no closer to finding our prize. Are we certain we are looking in the right place?”
The largest Kabudon curled its three fingers individually into a fist and slammed it onto the table.
“Do you question The Powerful One? He foresaw that we would find it, and foresaw that it would be here. I should have your throat!”
“Masu”, the smaller Kabudon repeated, stretching out its fingers and placing them on the table subserviently, lowering its head. “I question nobody. But many of the planets in this system may be similar. They could all match what we were told.”
The larger Kabudon slithered around the table slowly, until it was behind the speaker. It was several feet higher, and almost twice as wide. With surprising speed for such a large creature, it graped the speaker by its throat with its right hand, while holding the back of its shelled head with its left. The other Kabudons were silent as the smaller creature struggled, its body squirming as it fought for its life. Finally, the aggressor released its grip and slammed its victim's head on the table.
“Do you think this is brutal? This is a tickle compared to what The Powerful One will do if we leave here before the command is given. We keep searching for it until we’re commanded to leave.”
“How large do you think it is?” Another Kabudon asked. “Something so powerful, it surely must be enormous, like a mountain.”
“No.” The leader replied, slithering back to his original place at the head of the table. “It’s small. Small enough to hold in your hand. And strong enough to destroy all of Kabukai.”
Jonathan’s head hurt. His body felt strange, almost foreign - as if he were in it for the first time. He opened his eyes slowly. His vision was blurred; it took a moment for his surroundings to come into focus. He was inside a spacecraft; that much he knew. He looked down to see that he was wearing interior garments instead of his space suit and lying on a simple bed. He struggled to sit up slowly.
‘What happened?’ Jonathan thought to himself, as his consciousness began to return. ‘I thought I was done for…’
He looked down at his hands, and frowned at first in confusion, and then in alarm. Within the palm of his right hand was deeply embedded some sort of green crystal. He touched it and began to trace around the edge where the crystal met his hand.
‘This was the crystal we found…but that must mean…was she real?’
Jonathan’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of an automatic sliding door whooshing open. He looked up to see who must have been a crew member of the ship he was on. She was Asian, with long black hair and glasses. She wore a white doctor’s coat over the standard-issue United-Earth in-ship uniform. At this point though, Jonathan was just glad to see a living human.
“You’re up.” She said, as walked towards him. “Don’t try to get up just yet. You’re lucky to be alive, you know?”
“What happened?” Jonathan asked simply.
“We found you floating in space out there. You’re kind of a medical mystery, actually. You were out there for days as far as we can tell. Nobody should have been able to survive that, but you did.”
There was silence for a moment, as Jonathan pondered the events of the last few days - or what he could remember of them, at least.
“My name’s Yuki, I’m the medical officer aboard the ship.” She said as she sat down beside him.
“Please, I know who you are. You’re kind of a celebrity back at the UE Academy.”
Jonathan laughed quietly.
“I’m serious! You still hold at least half a dozen record grades, and you’re the captain of the legendary Expedition, ‘expanding humankind’s horizons, going where no one has gone before’.” She quoted the Expedition’s mission statement perfectly.
“Well…I was captain of the Expedition.”
“...I’m sorry. How are you feeling?”
“Well, physically I think I’m fine. Except for…” Jonathan gestured to his hand.
“We noticed that when we brought you in. We ran some tests on it, and it seems to be embedded in there quite deep. There is a risk that if we remove it, you may end up losing your arm. And surprisingly your body seems to be accepting it just fine, so I recommend not touching it - at least until we can get you back to Earth.”
“I see…Thank you. For bringing me in. For saving me.”
“Not at all! I mean, it’s quite literally the purpose of our ship: Hope.”
“Let me get our Captain, Ben. He’s been waiting for you to wake up, and is super excited to talk to you.”
The room doors whooshed open as the captain entered the room. He was a reasonably young, clean-shaven African-American with black hair and brown eyes.
“Captain Myers. It’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Benjamin Jones, I’m the Captain of the vessel. Most people call me Ben. I see you’ve already met Yuki, our medical officer. Welcome aboard Hope.”
“I’m thankful to be here. I…can’t thank you enough for saving me.”
“Helping those in need is our purpose.” Captain Jones replied. “We’re a rescue vessel, responding mostly to medical emergencies and people stranded out there, like yourself. Come on, I’ll introduce you to the rest of my crew.”
They walked past several rooms in the accommodation section, before coming out to the main hall. There was a rather tall crewmate with brown hair and blue eyes behind safety goggles soldering some cabling against the hallway wall.
“This is Dr. Anton Shevchenko, our Engineering Officer.” Captain Jones said, gesturing to Anton.
Anton turned round and raised his safety goggles.
“Wow, the man from space is awake!” He exclaimed with a Ukrainian accent. “I’d shake your hand, but…” He smiled gesturing to the tools in both of his hands.
“Maybe later,” Jonathan replied. “I’m Jonathan Myers. I was the Captain of the Expedition.”
“We all know. The little one next to you wouldn’t keep quiet once she identified you. You can thank her for finding you out there.”
Jonathan turned to thank Yuki, who was silently blushing.
“Thanks for fixing this, Anton.” Captain Jones said. “Come on, I’ll take you to the bridge.”
At the end of the hall was an opening into a spacious, circular control room with a glass panorama of outside the ship. There were several chairs behind various sorts of controls, and a ramp that led down towards them.
“Malik, Mia”. Captain Jones said as they descended the ramp. “He’s awake.”
Two more crew members spun their chairs away from the controls and rose to greet their popular survivor.
“Hi, I’m Mia.” Mia extended her hand and Jonathan shook it. “Communications Officer.”
Mia was a beautiful, Hispanic woman with black hair and brown eyes.
“Hey, I’m Malek.” Malek and Jonathan shook hands. “First Officer.”
“And Co-Pilot.” Captain Jones added.
“It’s very nice to meet you all,” Jonathan said. “So what happens from here? Where are you headed?”
“Well, we’ve made our rescue, and you probably want to get your hand examined at a better-equipped facility. We’ll take you to the nearest medical colony, and then go on our way from there.”
“Thank you.” Jonathan nodded.
“Our pleasure.” Captain Jones replied. “Are you hungry? It’s time for dinner on my watch.”
“Yeah. Yeah, that sounds great.”
Later that evening, Jonathan and Yuki sat opposite each other in the common room, playing poker. The rest of the crew had retired to their individual quarters.
“So what made you go into medicine?” Jonathan asked, discarding two cards and drawing two from the deck.
“Ugh, my parents,” Yuki replied, discarding a card of her own and drawing one.
Jonathan laughed. “Really?”
“Yeah. I wanted to be an artist. To travel the world, painting what inspired me. But my parents wouldn’t have it, especially my mum. They said there’s no money in that, and that I ought to do something more solid like medicine, engineering, law…you know, the boring stuff.”
“I don’t think they’re boring at all. And well, Medical Officer aboard Hope? It seems like things worked out for you in the end. Sometimes our parents are hard on us because they love us and want the best for us, but perhaps they don’t always express their love in the healthiest of ways.”
Yuki smiled. “That’s true. What about you? Did your parents steer you into your field, too?”
Jonathan’s expression was complex - he smiled, but there was pain behind his eyes.
“When I was a kid, I was pretty sick…a lot.” He began. “At one point I spent more time in hospital by myself than I did at home.”
“By yourself? Weren’t your parents there?”
“They visited when they could, but I had two younger siblings that they had to look after. I can’t blame them, it must have been hard having to choose between your child in hospital or your children at home.”
“Anyway, I remember that there used to be this cool guy that would come to the wards, dressed like a space captain. He called himself ‘Captain Starlight’. He’d bring comics, games and cartoons to all us sick kids and pretended that the hospital was a spaceship, and we were all his crew.” Jonathan cleared his throat as he felt himself welling up.
“Anyway, I guess it’s kind of lame, but after I got better, I decided that I wanted to be like him, you know? To be a real Captain of a real ship. To be a real `Captain Starlight`.”
“I don’t think that’s lame at all,” Yuki said.
After a moment, they both reached for the deck at the same time, their hands touching briefly before they both moved them away.
“Sorry,” Jonathan said.
“No, it’s fine.”
For a while they both sat silently, cards in hand, staring at each other, feeling the connection between them.
“I…” Jonathan began. “I think I’d better head back to my room. It’s getting pretty late.”
“Oh, right. Let’s finish this tomorrow?”
“Sounds like a plan,” Jonathan replied, placing his cards face-down on the table. “See you tomorrow. Sleep well.”
He stood up and began to head toward his room.
“You too!” He heard Yuki yell from behind him. Jonathan turned, offered her a smile, and continued on his way.
Jonathan felt the connection between them, but wouldn’t allow it to develop. After failing his crew and surviving when they had not, he wouldn’t allow himself to feel that kind of joy. He needed to hurt, and to grieve. He needed time.
The next morning, Jonathan awoke uneventfully. Somehow it still felt as though it wasn’t him who was in his body; that he was somehow watching somebody else control his movements, even though he knew that was impossible.
‘It’s probably just the effects of having been in space for so long. I was probably oxygen depleted,’ he thought to himself.
He put on his United-Earth crew uniform, washed his face and left to get some coffee.
In the hall, Jonathan saw Yuki coming back from the kitchen opposite him, heading in the opposite direction.
“Good morning.” She said politely.
“Morning,” Jonathan replied, meeting her gaze.
As they both tried to sidestep to avoid each other, they ended up moving in the same direction and came face to face.
“Sorry,” Yuki said, both of them laughing nervously.
“Actually, I wanted to talk to you this morning. I know I left kind of abruptly last night and well…” Jonathan looked off to the side, avoiding eye contact. “...it’s just that a lot has happened to me recently, and I think I just need some time…to process it all.”
“No, I get that. That’s okay.” Yuki replied, and Jonathan’s gaze returned back to her. They stood silently for a moment.
Suddenly, they were both knocked off their feet as Hope shook violently, sending both of them crashing into the nearest wall. Immediately afterwards, the ship alarms initiated, with pulsating red lights and warning sirens sounding in every room.
“This is your Captain speaking,” Ben’s voice said on the intercoms throughout the ship. “All crew take your position on the deck. We’re under fire.”
Jonathan and Yuki ran down the hall into the Command Deck, took their positions at their control stations and buckled in. All other crew members were already there. Captain Benjamin was at the front, engaging the ship thrusters, trying to speed away from whatever was firing at them.
“What’s going on? Who’s firing at us?” Yuki shouted.
“I don’t know, but I don’t want to find out! We’re the smaller vessel, if we’re quick we might be able to outmanoeuvre them.” Ben yelled as two inaccurate photon shots shot past them.
Suddenly, another large ship came out of hyperspace in front of them. It was several times the size of hope, black and round like a turtle shell.
“Shit!” Ben cursed as he pushed on the controls and made a hard right.
It was no use. Another shell-shaped ship materialised out of hyperspace before them, and three more behind them, making six ships in total. They were surrounded.
Behind Ben, Jonathan wiped sweat off his forehead. His body felt like it was on fire. It was more than the stress of the situation - his body had never felt so hot. Something was definitely wrong.
Ben activated the radio transmission. “This is Captain Benjamin Jones, representing United Earth, requesting ceasefire. We’re a rescue vessel, have no weapons and surrender peacefully.”
His request was in vain though, as the nearest ship fired another photon, which Ben narrowly avoided.
Jonathan couldn’t bear it anymore. He unbuckled and moved towards the far right side of the deck, leaning against the wall. He unzipped his uniform, panting.
“Jonathan? What’s wrong?” Yuki asked, concerned.
“I don’t know. I feel too hot. I’m burning up.” Jonathan looked down at his hand to see the embedded green crystal pulsating rhythmically with bright green light. It was entrancing. It was calming.
Yuki unbuckled and ran towards him, putting her hand on his forehead.
“Shit. We’re going to the medical bay.”
Yuki braced herself and almost fell over as Ben quickly maneuvered the ship to avoid another photon.
“Fuck!” Ben cursed. “They’re not even trying to hit us. They’re playing with us!”
“Come on,” Yuki said. “We need to cool you down.”
“No,” Jonathan replied. His voice was changed somehow as if it were becoming an amalgamation of two voices. Jonathan’s was there, but there was another, softer, feminine voice there too. “I need to get out.” His eyes were changed too; they had become bright, translucent green, just like the crystal in his hand. He looked out into outer space.
“The fuck you are.” Yuki looked into his eyes clearly. “Jonathan, I don’t know what’s happening to you right now, but we’re going to cool you down and get you stable, okay?”
Yuki grunted and fell to the floor as Ben evaded two more shots.
“Enough of this,” He said desperately. “I’m gonna launch it.”
“You can’t!” Malek protested. “The minute they detect the hyperdrive, they’ll blow us away!”
“I’m not gonna use the hyperdrive.”
“Yuki,” Jonathan - or what he was becoming - called softly. “I need to get outside. I need to save the ship.”
Yuki couldn’t believe what she was about to do. Perhaps it was the dire situation that they were in. Perhaps it was Jonathan, with his radiant green eyes looking less human with each passing moment. Or perhaps it was her, for once in her life allowing herself to believe in the unknown; to have hope.
“The release hatch. Follow me.”
Yuki ran down the main hall towards the rear end of the ship, with Jonathan right behind her. At the end of the hall was a pressurised glass door, behind which was the release hatch.
"A space suit," Yuki said to herself audibly, panting.
"No. Just open the door." Jonathan replied, his own voice now truly mixed with whatever was speaking with him - or through him.
"But you'll die!"
"I won't," Jonathan said, his body radiating with a green aura. "I need to save the ship. I need to save you."
Yuki sighed. "I know I'm going to have my licence revoked for this."
She entered in a code onto the control panel on the wall, and the glass door slid open. Jonathan, or what he had become, walked I side and turned to face Yuki. The glass door slid shut between them.
"Come back." She said as she opened the release hatch.
Jonathan was instantly sucked out of the room and into space, now no more than a faint green light somewhere far off in the distance.
Back on the control deck, Ben engaged the rear thrusters and launched the ship forwards heading straight towards one of the fighter ships in front of it. At the last moment, he pushed on the controls and the ship did a nosedive, descending in space and avoiding the oncoming photon lasers. For a moment, it looked as though Ben’s plan had worked, but Malek could see the surrounding ships descending with them, adjusting their direction surprisingly quickly for ships of their size. It was no use - all the nosedive manoeuvre did was burn up fuel. Hope came to a stop, Ben and the crew coming to the realisation that there probably was no way out for them.
Yuki finally returned to the control bridge, panting.
“Where the hell have you been? Where’s Jonathan?” Malek yelled.
Yuki ignored him and instead of taking her position at her seat, stood before the front windshield, looking out. Malek followed her gaze, noticing the radiating green light suspended in space. Far off in the distance, Jonathan hovered in space, surrounded by a green aura - only he wasn’t Jonathan anymore. His uniform was gone, and his body had changed into a green, smooth, muscular form resembling a Greek god. It had a masculine form, but without any remarkable features. His hair was gone. He had become more than human. Empowered by the crystal that had fused with his body, he had transformed into what would come to be known as a Cosmic Prime.
“What’s that light?” Malek asked, confused.
“It’s him,” Yuki replied. “It’s Jonathan. Or…it used to be.”
“That’s Jonathan!?” Mia exclaimed. “What happened to him?”
“...He’s become Starlight.”
The shell-shaped ship in front of them visibly charged its photon cannons, preparing most likely to end the game that they’ve been playing - to end hope. At the same time, Starlight began to emit a blinding green glow, so bright that it must have been seen by neighbouring galaxies. Within a fraction of a second, he had shot forward, smashing through the ship closest to Hope, leaving a luminous trail behind him. The ship exploded on impact, pieces and parts breaking away. The other five ships all turned towards Starlight, no longer interested in their game with Hope.
“Now’s our chance!” Ben exclaimed as he engaged Hope’s thrusters and began to speed away.
Meanwhile, the five remaining alien ships all opened fire upon Starlight, but he was too small, too fast and too agile for them to hit. As he did before, his body began to emit a powerful, blinding light and almost instantly, he shot forwards once again, crashing through a second ship in a vortex of light and fire. With a second ship down, the four remaining alien vessels turned in the opposite direction. They began to vibrate with energy as they engaged their hyperdrive systems and moments later they vanished into hyperspace.
The intensity of the moment had passed, and Ben slowed Hope to a crawl. The crew were silent, not able to believe what had just happened with a scientific mind, yet unable to deny it. Starlight floated towards the ship. Ben, Malek, Yuki, Mia and Anton all watched in amazement as he hovered meters away from Hope’s windscreen. Yuki gestured for him to move towards the release hatch, and ran off towards the rear of the ship. Starlight followed her, hovering around the outside of the vessel.
“Malek, Mia, steady the ship. Wait for my return. Anton, let’s bring our guest back in.” Ben instructed, and he and Anton sped off after Yuki towards the release hatch.
By the time Ben and Anton had reached the rear of the ship, Yuki had already opened the hatch. Starlight floated into the ship and landed gracefully on his feet. Yuki closed the hatch and stood beyond the glass divider, separated from Jonathan by less than a meter, but feeling lightyears away. She opened the glass divider, and the three of them watched anxiously as Starlight began to walk towards them. Each of the crew gasped as Starlight’s body began to radiate once more, so much so that his form was almost no longer visible at all. Moments later, the light receded, revealing an exhausted Jonathan, back in his human form.
“I got you,” Anton mumbled, catching Jonathan as he collapsed to the floor.
“Jonathan!” Yuki called, crouching over him and checking his pulse and temperature. “Jonathan, can you hear me? Are you okay?”
“I don’t think they prepared for this at medical school, little one.” Anton mumbled.
“Jonathan? Jonathan?” Yuki repeated.
“He’s just tired.” Another somewhat familiar, soft and feminine voice sounded from above.
The crew looked up and gasped in alarm to see what looked like a green alien floating above them. She had a green body, with smooth green skin, darker green hair, big eyes and whiskers and a tail.
“Whoah! Guys, what is it?” Ben asked, his voice shaking nervously.
They all braced themselves as the alien seemed to anger.
“I’m not an it!” It pouted childishly, extending its fists while still hovering in the air.
“She’s part of me…” Jonathan said weakly.
“Jonathan!” Yuki cried. “You’re awake!”
“What happened to you?” Ben asked softly, dumbfounded. “How did you do that?”
“I…I don’t know.” Jonathan replied. “It’s like I was just watching myself.”
“It was me, duh! I had to save you guys from the baddies!” The alien exclaimed from above.
Ben rose from his crouched position and nervously took a step towards the floating alien.
“I’m sorry, how incredibly rude of me not to welcome our guest aboard the ship. Welcome to Hope, our ship. My name is Ben, I’m the captain. This is Yuki, and Anton.” Ben gestured to his crew. “May I ask what your name is?”
The creature crossed her legs in mid-air and placed her index finger on her chin in thought. “A name? I guess I don’t have one. I’ve never really talked to anyone before.”
Ben laughed nervously. “Well, if you don’t already have a name, perhaps we should give you one?”
“Yeah!” The alien exclaimed, extending its limbs in joy. “Can I have a name? Can I, can I?”
Ben turned to his crew. “What do you guys think?”
“I know what I think, but you won’t like it.” Anton joked.
“How about Midori?” Yuki suggested. “It’s Japanese.”
Ben turned back to the alien. “Well? How do you like your name, Midori?”
“Midori…” She repeated, holding her hands near her face tightly. “I love it.” She said softly.
“I have a name!” She yelled out loudly and flew down the hallway through the air, cheering a whoohooing excitedly.
“So it looks like we have a new guest aboard,” Ben commented and looked back at Jonathan. He crouched back down.
“Hey, Captain Myers. Thank you, for what you did back there. I can’t explain how you did it, but…you saved us all.”
Jonathan shook his head wearily. “It was her, Midori.” He held out the green crystal still embedded in his hand.
“Are you going to be alright?” Yuki asked. “Because I don’t think I have any knowledge about how to treat alien superhuman crystalysis.”
“I’ll be okay, I just need sleep,” Jonathan said and closed his eyes.
“Welcome back, Starlight.”