Phobos Undone – Prompt

Hello everyone! I have finally completed another prompt after taking my sweet time doing it. This is another one from fablesquill and it was a tough one, so I took my time. I hope you like it. Feel free to leave a comment or attempt the prompt yourself. “The first manned mission to Phobos, from the Martian perspective.” – I didn’t quite follow it precisely because I’m a rule breaker, but it was fun to say the least!

Have you ever done something so fantastic that the entire world recognized your effort? For me, that was going to be a given. I was responsible for the first manned mission to Phobos. I had spent the better part of my 20s trying to get people on board with the mission and to make sure there was funding, staff, materials, and that the project would go off without a hitch. It did; the planning was perfect, the crew was perfect, and the launch was perfect. Phobos Alpha (blame the publicity team) was my baby and I, sparing you all the boring details, was going to be heading it from start to finish.

That’s not what happened. Nothing went according to plan. Instead of telling the world that our crew had landed safely, I had to tell them something unbelievable: there was life on Mars. There was life on Mars and it was not impressed by our little mission. The first clue came a few months before the shuttle would reach Phobos. The crew sent up a warning beacon in the form of a signal coming from Mars. We were ecstatic that there might be sentient beings and what kind of doors that would open up. The only problem was the signal itself. It came from the Curiosity rover on Mars and it was a butchered signal that wasn’t designed by Curiosity itself. It was a series of numerical values that corresponded to text, which was incredible in and of itself. The text just said: ‘abandon ovum’.

By the time we had deciphered the message as text, the crew was a month away from Phobos and we got another message from Curiosity. ‘Alarm abandon ovum perish you’ popped up every few minutes. After studying the messages for a day or so, the crew’s intelligence officer put together the shape of Phobos and an egg, linking the phrase ovum to their mission. Somehow something on Mars had figured out we were going to Phobos and it was… threatening us? Some loose interpretation led the message to read: ‘Warning, abandon egg or you die’ and that was disconcerting at best. No attempts at communication back resulted in a different message. There was no instruction or action plan for this eventuality, so the crew took a vote. Scrub the mission based on an unverified and disturbing message from Mars or continue onward to Phobos. They chose to scrub the mission and we gave the green light within the hour. It was unfortunate that our radio partner could not detect that the course had shifted. It could only see that we were continuing forward, not knowing that we couldn’t just stop and turn around. It would’ve been easy enough had they landed, but that was out of the question now.

The plan had been to drop a smaller vessel onto Phobos and have the astronauts stay on it until it rotated back into a close enough position to launch back up to the main ship. It would’ve then continued on and looped around Mars, back toward Earth. Whatever was using Curiosity on Mars could not detect movement precisely and did not understand the trajectory we had originally planned, nor the changed one. It could only tell that we had not listened; that is at least my personal speculation considering the next message we received when they were mere days away from the loop. The old messages had stopped and it was a relief to the crew until the communications array chirped with simultaneous delivery of hundreds of messages. They all said variations of the same thing: ‘Expiry ascends’. Now, I could spend hours discussing the specific words they chose, but no one knew the true meaning. Sure, we all knew that it was a death sentence of one type or another, but the truth was more depressing and more… majestic than we could’ve fathomed.

The crew, fearing the worst, transmitted messages to their loved ones and to the people of Earth in case they were about to die. It was the second most painful day of my life, though I didn’t know it. The first came 11 days later when the crew transmitted visuals of Phobos, Deimos, and Mars in real time as they passed by. They were able to transmit the cracking of Phobos as chunks of the moon explosively jettisoned into space going far faster the 25 mph necessary to break its atmosphere. It was smaller pieces at first, but before long chunks bigger than cars were hurtling out and although none hit the ship, they gave rise to a bigger issue. As Phobos obliterated itself, it became clear why ovum had been used as the word for the moon. It had been a literal egg. The entire world watched as an unspeakable being was born and it was haunting. It had to be miles long and had tendrils that blinked in and out of existence. I cannot describe it, but you can watch the footage when it’s released so it would be needless to try. It pulled itself out of the husk of the moon and launched itself outward. It moved effortlessly through space. As it passed by the ship, one of the tendrils curled toward the ship and where it touched, the metal warped and dissolved. Within seconds the alarms were blaring and less than a minute later we lost all contact with the crew.

The world’s greatest discovery is its scariest by far and I don’t know where we will go from here. For now the creature, taking the name Phobos, will be tracked by astronomers all over the world. We are into a new and increasingly more dangerous era of space travel. Are we truly ready?

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