“What was that…?” Professor Hopkins whispered to himself as he stared out the portside window.
“What was what?” Captain Callahan asked.
“Oh er… ah, nothing. Nothing, I’m sure. I think staring off into this infinite darkness is starting to play tricks on my eyes,” Hopkins replied.
“Well, it’ll do that. I assure you. Best to keep your mind occupied with other things while you’re up here. Nothing out there to see anyway, right Professor?” Callahan said.
“Oh, uh. Yes. Nothing…” Hopkins said, tearing his eyes away from the inky blackness of space. He wrinkled his brow slightly, then laughed. “Ha… haha, you know, I’d almost swear I saw a shark. Imagine such a thing!” shaking his head.
“A shark! My, Professor, your imagination really does run wild doesn’t it,” Callahan laughed. Hopkins nodded, slowly turning his eyes back to the porthole.
“Haha, yes, I suppose it does…” Hopkins trailed off as he saw something glint out of the corner of his eye. He shook his head again, looking back at the starship captain. “Uhh, er, say Captain.”
“What do you think happened to the crew of Gemini-I? I mean, in your opinion as a spaceman, what do you think could have happened?” Hopkins asked.
“Well, Professor, outer space is an unforgiving place. An unforgiving, inhospitable, vast, vacuum of nothingness. Any number of things could have gone wrong with Gemini-I. Explosive decompression, solar radiation, equipment malfunction, even pilot’s error can’t be ruled out. The truth is, Professor, there is no place more daunting, more dangerous, more deadly than outer space,” Callahan replied. Hopkins nodded, paused, nodded again.
“Yes…” He looked out the window, rocked back to get a better view, then leaned forward quickly. “Captain.”
“Why do you suppose they would have me accompany you on this mission? Why do you think they would choose me, a marine biologist, to fly to outer space to investigate the disappearance of a starship? Why a marine biologist, Captain?” Hopkins asked.
“Well… Honestly, Professor, I’m as puzzled as you are. I… I just don’t know,” Callahan replied. Hopkins stared out the window again, nervous. He gripped his slacks, released, clinched his fingers again. He stomped his feet and looked at the Captain with excited fear.
“Suppose, Captain, just suppose. Say there were something out here. And suppose this thing were alive. Suppose that a living creature could survive here in the vacuum of space. Not just survive, but that this was its natural habitat. Suppose something lived out here, Captain. Suppose it was capable of attacking a starship. What if, Captain, what if they chose me because they knew something lived out here. Something like… a shark,” Hopkins said, his lips quivering.
“Now, Professor…” Callahan started.
“Sir! Something showing on the radar,” Navigator Carlson cut in.
“What is it, Carlson?” Callahan asked, leaning over his shoulder.
“It… it looks like an asteroid field of some sort… but there’s nothing like this on the charts…” Carlson said.
Professor Hopkins stood and staggered toward the men. He stared straight ahead, eyes fixed on the wide forward window.
“No… Not asteroids… not asteroids…” Hopkins said, the words tumbling from his pale lips.
The two men turned their eyes slowly toward the window. In the distance, thousands of tiny shapes began to come into view. Shiny, gray specks on the horizon. Not asteroids. Something new and ancient. An unspeakable horror, seen only once by human eyes, converging on Gemini-II from all directions. An uncharted nightmare swimming through the infinite dark depths of space.