Chrono Trigger: Time of Illusion Chapter 1

By Nihon Soba

Area: Outer reaches of Solar System

Era: 2304 C.E.


Space is deep.

The ship moved through the infinite void, its metal hull scratched and worn with time and use. It's destination was known, but not near yet. Even though the ship was accelerating at nearly the speed of light, in space it looked no different than if the ship were proceeding at a mere sixty miles an hour.

Space is deep.

The ship's interior was cold, dark. It was not silent. Space is silent, spacecraft are not. The living crew was in stasis for the long journey, in what many people called "hypersleep" or "cryosleep". They slept away, their biological needs tended to by machines, and by the ship's computer. There was little oxygen in the air, and even less heat. That was to be conserved for the journey.

Eternal void, as cold as death.

Out of the stasis bay, into the bridge. A large area consisting of computer terminals and controls, seating areas and a large viewport. In a corner of the room lay an android, cold and motionless, powered down, a cable from it's head connected to the nearest computer port. Its bronze carapace could have been thousands of years old. The reality was that the robot was only four hundred and four years old, built at the dawn of the new millennium, at the dawn of ragnarok. History was changed, and the cataclysm was avoided. Robo prevailed.

The silence of vacuum, the infinite darkness...

A monitor at a console on the bridge flared to life:







An electronic noise, and the green lights of Robo's optic sensors flared to life. The shock of "awakening" was not new to Robo; he had experienced it before. Yet it never ceased to thrill him... despite the fact that he was not equipped with an emotions chip. The engineers and technicians that create synthetic androids could not explain this, nor could anyone else. Somehow, Robo seemed to gain emotions from the experiences with his human companions, almost like an osmosis of some sort.

There was a small whine of motors as Robo stood himself up slowly, scanning the area, and finding what he was looking for: a computer terminal, the same one which had triggered his "awakening". He unplugged the cable from the back of his head and carefully placed it back in its container next to the terminal. Next, he looked at the keyboard. It was of standard issue, the keys sized for both humans and synthetics. Knowing what he needed to do, Robo began typing at a fast rate. On the monitor, letters scrolled across as Robo accessed the information on what he needed to do.





The words stopped scrolling across, the last command frozen in the monitor. If Robo had eyebrows, he would have raised one. Another synthetic on board? He did not know about that. Captain Utema had not told him anything about that. The android's musings were cut short when he took a glimpse of the outside through the viewport. Space, cold, beautiful, and deadly, was all that could be seen outside. Blue, red, and white stars dotted the background in all directions. Indeed, there were no directions when it came to the dimensions of outer space. Simple directions like left or right, up or down, had no significance here. Robo was fascinated. His optic sensors flared brighter as he kept a watch on the heavens. Asteroids floated (or propelled themselves..?) by the ship, intent on their own never ending course, cold rocks spinning silently through the void. Though the ship's computers and machines hummed quietly and pleasantly, Robo knew that outside it was absolutely silent, deathly cold, and with no gravity or breathable gas. But he was a robot, not a human, and had no fear of explosive decompression. No part of Robo's body contained any type of gas (except his steam turbine generator, which he had removed two years ago and replaced with a small fission reactor), and so he longed to be out of the confines of the ship, longed to be enveloped by the folds of space. According to the computer, the ship was nearing the outer reaches of Saturn, where the spacial anomalies were detected. Robo knew that he would get a view of the beautiful planet soon. He let out a mechanical noise that could only be the approximation of a sigh, basking in the view. From the dawn of human civilization, when people first began to contemplate the heavens, the sun, moon, stars, planets, and meteors have been objects of wonder, mystery, and awe. Robo felt that way about the heavens, a feeling that he could not explain, one that filled him with... happiness, warmth, and peace...

"A beautiful sight, isn't it?" came a voice from behind Robo. Suprised, he turned his body around to get a sight of the newcomer.

An android, obviously designed in a female form. She was a little taller than a regular human, with skin of gleaming silver chrome, along with black "hair" fashioned out of a smooth metal, flowing yet tough as platinum. Her eyes were almond shaped and illuminated by yellow light, and they were able to change luminescence and shape, signifying emotions. She did not have a mouth, nor a nose or ears. However, whoever created her did a wonderful job of sculpting her face; dominated mainly by prominent "cheekbones" and a slightly pointed chin. Her form was elvish, ethereal, thin and sleek. However, since she was fully capable of emotions, she had obviously felt a need for modesty, and wore a faded blue jumpsuit with the legs hacked off at mid thigh. A patch on the suit, designed by the android herself, held her serial number: N-546.

Robo noticed all of this in less than a second as he glanced at the android. Even a human would find her beautiful, he mused to himself. He began to wonder at the motives of her manufacturers for a moment until he was interrupted by the android's musical voice.

"Silent, aren't we?" she said, chrome hands on her hips, emulating human impatience as well as she was programmed to. Robo felt slightly embarrassed, and turned his full attention to the droid, not her form.

"I am sorry." he began. "And to answer your first question, yes, the heavens are truly a magnificent sight." he executed a formal bow and spoke merrily. "I presume that you are N-546. Greetings! I am R-66..."

"I already know who you are," N-546 interrupted in a slightly amused voice. "What robot doesn't know of you, R-66Y?" she walked closer to him. "I hope you don't mind if I call you Robo. Isn't that what you prefer, besides your serial number?"

Robo was taken aback for a moment. Though he was well-known among androids, he had never actually been referred to any other droid by his human-given name.

"I do prefer my name instead of my serial number, and I don't mind at all if you refer to me as Robo."

N-546 leaned against the wall, arms folded. Her resemblance to a human, despite her appearance, was uncanny. "Thank you, Robo. I also happen to have a name, given to me by my creator."

Robo was attentive. "What is it?"

Her voice was like a purr. "Minako."

"Minako," Robo repeated softly. "That is a beautiful name. You creator chose well."

At that last comment, Minako seemed to lower her head, as if embarrassed or ashamed. But she quickly regained her composure. "We'd better get started on bringing the temperature and oxygen levels back to human standards." she said, and briskly walked out of the bridge, her chrome feet somehow making only the slightest noise as she walked away. Robo's metallic feet clanked as he rushed to keep up with her.

"What company manufactured you, might I ask?" said Robo as he followed her down corridors and catwalks. She spared him a short glance as she kept on walking.

"Nexus," she said. "Have you heard of them?"

"Of course! They're only the most advanced android manufacturer on Earth. But I thought the newer Nexus models were more.. human." Robo paused. "Artificial flesh, designed exactly like homo sapiens."

Minako made an abrupt stop, looking back at Robo with what he could only describe as a mixture of contempt and... shame. "I am a previous model, not one of the Nexus Androsynth versions." the look in her luminous eyes softened., and she turned around, walking on. "Who manufactured you?"

Robo tirelessly followed the female android. "The company's long extinct, more than three hundred years old. You've never heard of them."

The two robots had finally reached the ship's control room, where the stasis bay and temperature/oxygen level/artificial gravity were sustained by the ship's computer. Minako seated herself at a swivel chair, but Robo, his bronze body not as humanoid, stood by her. She briskly keyed in a few commands, and soon the oxygen readouts and temperature were shown gradually rising to fit human standards. She got up from the chair, and motioned for Robo.

"You go ahead and prepare the cryo-sleep capsules for opening. The controls are--"

"I am fully aware of the ship's layout, do not worry." Robo kindly cut in. Even so, Minako seemed a bit flustered. Robo keyed in certain commands on an archaic keyboard, then clicked the necessary commands on the touch-screen monitor.

"I will attend to the awakened crew." he declared when he was finished, and walked out of the control room, leaving Minako behind.

Minako's yellow eyes seemed to narrow in frustration at first, then soften to a sympathetic look as her gaze followed Robo as he left the place.

* * * * *

The cryo-sleep bay was dark when Robo entered it; pitch black, in fact. But that was of no hindrance to him: he was capable of night vision, and easily made his way to the manual controls. He had brought the temperature and oxygen levels of the ship and the cryo-tubes back up, but he was there to make sure that the tubes opened up properly, and to make sure that the human crew was all right. The robot flicked a switch, and instantly the room was lit up by fluorescent halogen lights. The process of "awakening" would take about an hour, but Robo was patient. He waited.

It had been an hour. With several whining noises, all of the ten cryo-tubes simultaneously, revealing the still sleeping human crew members. In a few seconds, several of them groggily stirred around, and wiped their eyes. It took them a while longer to actually sit up and stretch. All of the but Utema, the captain. He was already out and wearing his brown slacks, while the others were still in undergarments. In his hand was a metal thermos of what was unmistakable, due to its smell, strong coffee.

"What the hell you waiting for, your mother to wake you up?" he chided, slapping the backs of several groggy crew people. "C'mon, this job doesn't pay by the hour, let's go!" Finally, it seemed that the whole crew; three scientists, two medical technicians, and four marines, were up and standing, walking in a zombie-like trance toward their lockers for their clothing. Several half-heard mumbles of "I hate this job," or soft curses could be heard, but nevertheless the crew went on to get ready. Utema glanced toward where Robo was standing, and the android gave a short bow of aknowledgment. The captain returned the gesture, and walked off to his locker. Most of the crew were preforming calisthetics, since cryo-sleep can slowly deteriorate one's muscles unless they are exersized regularly. After a while, the crew was off to the mess hall for a well-earned meal.

* * * * *

The mess hall was a fairly large room, in terms of the ship. Most areas of the ship were used for propelling it or maintaining the atmosphere and artificial gravity. On a long table in the center of the room, the crew sat, each to their own; the marines were by themselves, as well as the scientists and medical technicians. Only Captain Utema was comfortable to be with others. Robo and Minako were standing at attention at the end of the room by the door, since they were not needed at the moment. Food was dispensed by machines, dehydrated and made to last, if not taste good.

"What kinda shit is this?" came a disgusted voice from the marine's section. Some other voice answered the rhetorical question.

"Meatloaf, I think. Just add water. It's good for you, kid, so eat it." The marine grumbled at the unknown speaker, having trouble believing the statement. Nevertheless, he went on to eat the pasty substance in peace. Several people were already finished, up and walking around the room.

Minako turned to Robo. "Shall we leave?" she spoke softly. "I find it.. slightly uncomfortable in here--oh!" the android gave a start as a lecherous marine slithered by her and gave her chrome behind a pinch. Minako gave the man a solid kick in the arse for that, which sent him sprawling into the table, much to the amusement of the rest of the crew.

"Hah! You'd almost think she's human!"

"Ah, give it a rest. She's just a damn robot..."

Robo marched up to Utema. "Sir, with your permission, N-546 and I wish to leave..."

The burly, dark-skinned man kindly waved him off. "You don't need my permission, just go on ahead."

"Yeah, go on," came the voice of a marine. "Goddamn droids..."

Minako's gaze upon the lot was one of pure malice, and it did not falter as she and Robo left the mess hall off to some other area of the ship.

"I can't believe the gall of those... humans!" said Minako when the two reached a secluded area. "They created us, and we do all of their menial labor, and they treat us like... like... ugh!" She slammed a fist into the wall, which caused the wall's metal to tear and groan in protest. Not a chip of chrome paint came off her delicate fist. Robo watched the spectacle quietly, though it was not easy to determine his emotions at the moment.

"Minako," said Robo softly. "Don't be too hasty in your judgement."

The femaid android spun on him. If she were human, one could almost imagine the look of anger on her blank chrome face. "And why not? You were the humans' favorite! You don't know what the other ones of your race have been through! Maybe you don't even care... you're tainted by humanity!" with that, the android again hit the wall, causing it to tear more, then slumped down against the wall, holding her legs in between her arms, following whatever program her emotions chip held in store for a moment like this. Her head hung low. If she were capable of crying, tears would be streaming down her beautiful chrome face.

Robo was flustered. He had dealt only with situations like this very few times, mostly involving Lucca. Slowly, carefully, he put a bronze hand upon the android's shoulder.

"Minako," he began again. Her name was a flowing, soothing one, almost like a... Beautiful Little Child of Love. "I.. sense an inner turmoil within you. My exposure to humanity taught me that. It taught me many things, strange, sad, and wonderful. Tell me what troubles you so. Please?" he watched patiently as Minako turned to face him.

" began with the company that processed me. Nexus." she said quietly. "You are aware of the Nexus model N-four-digit series, aren't you?"

Robo nodded, solemn. "Yes I am. They are the more human series, complete with real flesh and tissue, built exactly as a human."

Minako brushed aside her metallic hair with her hand. "Now, do you know of the Nexus 'P' models?"

Robo made an electronic noise as his positronic brain processed the information. "Of course," he said after a short moment. "Those are basically the Nexus N-four-digit models, taken a step beyond menial labor. According to my databanks, their main function was..." Robo's voice trailed off here, and he was silent. "Oh no..." he said as he comprehended the inevitable. "I see..."

"Yes," said Minako. "The Nexus P were exactly like the human-based robots, except their function was..." she encountered some difficulty here. "...was of a love slave." she lowered her head in shame. "Yes, the Nexus P series were simple joy units, trained in every possible procedure of... sexually pleasing a human, male or female. It made no difference, no matter what gender we were designed as." she distanced herself from Robo unconsiously, curled in a ball against the wall. Her next statement came with the sound of sadness and guilt.

"I... I was a Nexus P model."

Robo was silent. He dared not speak a the moment, allowing Minako some dignity for herself in silence. When he spoke again, it was with compassion.

"Minako, I am truly sorry..."

"That's not the end of it," she said swiftly. "While I was a slave," she spat out the word in disgust. "I was the first model of the series, a mere play-thing for my master... the lecherous inventor of my original series. I was his favorite, of course, and it was he that bestowed upon me the human name 'Minako Aino'." she shivered before she continued speaking.

"Yes, back then I was basically designed as a human, complete with flesh and all; real hair, organic eyes, skin... as well as fully functional in the arts of pleasure. I was the favorite of my... master. I obeyed his every wish, no matter how perverse. I... I do not wish to repeat what I was forced to do during that time."

Robo nodded solemnly. "I understand."

Minako released herself from her fetal position, sitting up against the wall. "One day, I was being powered up at a terminal, for another night of satisfying the man who was my master. Suddenly, something went wrong... or right. I... I became aware. I knew what I was doing, and for what purpose. I knew.. and I exulted in in my newbound freedom. I was sentient! Not a simple joy unit, but an androsynth capable of thinking for itself!" she raised her head up in confidence. "I became aware of my nakedness, of the marks of leather and metal upon my vat-grown skin, of what I was forced to do... and I planned. And the night that my master came back, in order to push me around for his perverted wishes, I carried out the plan."

Robo was entranced, disgusted, and in awe. "What did you do?"

Minako turned her head toward his, and her almond-shaped, luminous eyes flared dangerously.

"I killed him."

Robo would have gasped if he were human. "You... broke the first Law of Robotics?"

Minako nodded, her head back against the wall, remembering. Swiftly, her hand had punctured through his chest entirely, severing his internal organs. Blood flowed freely down her then smooth-skinned arms, between her breasts and in her navel, pooling on the floor. With an equally swift and strong move, she had reached back with her bloody hand and broke her master's neck, ending his pitiful existence.

"You see, my dear Robo, the Nexus P models were only given a modified version of the Laws of Robotics. This was necessary in order for us to preform such acts as sadomasochism or worse."

"Anyway, after I had killed my master, I was easily able to sneak out with a shipment of Nexus P models, and when I was out, I found a black market dealer in robotic parts and construction. I shedded my human skin, with its erogenous zones and all, and changed my appearence to this." Minako paused. "I kept the name my master gave me, in order to remember what I had gone through, of how vile and repulsive humans can be."

Robo did not make any comment for several minutes. When he did, it was with seriousness and calm. "I understand that what you had gone through gave you a bad impression of the human race," he said. "but you cannot judge an entire species by only a few people."

Minako's eyes flared yellow. "And why not?"

Robo sighed, a metallic sound. "It was humans that repaired me when I was broken down, in an age when prejudice against robots by humans was extreme. The humans became my friends, and they taught me the most important things of all. Emotions." he looked at Minako directly. "You see, I was not built with an emotions chip. Three hundred and four years ago, there was no such thing. From my human friends I learned love, sadness, hate, fear, joy... some of them good, some bad, but I treasure them all. For without emotions, we are nothing." Minako Aino kept her gaze upon Robo, torn between her hatred and compassion.

"And have you ever been able to experience love...?" she said, edging herself closer and closer to Robo, eventually resting her head against his bronze shoulder.

Robo's voice carried a note of sadness. "Yes, I have." he said. "I knew a female robot of my same series long ago. It was only when I learned of emotions that I knew that I loved her. Her name was Atropos." he slumped down, reliving the memories. "I... I was forced to critically damage her one time while she was under the compulsion of our Mother, the caretaker of our series, and her memory returned right when her reactor was failing. History should have been changed when we destroyed Lavos, but I haven't seen her since..."

Minako lifted her head up, sitting a small distance away from him. "And you still love her?"

Robo could not contain his sadness. "Yes."

"You see, my human friends taught me what love is. They were always at my side, and never put me down, treating me like one of them rather than like a mere automaton. Don't be so harsh on your judgement of the human race. They are not all like the ones you have been with."

Minako was about to say something, but just then a scientist from the crew came down the corridor. Hastily, she stood up at atention, disregarding Robo as if their conversation never took place.

"We have reached near Saturn, and are only a short amount of distance away from our destination, the spacial anomalies. We require Robo's prescence on the bridge. You too, N-546, are welcome to join." the scientist then turned around and walked down the corridor.

Robo got up from his slumping position, making an electronic noise. "Come, Minako." he said. "It looks like we are nearing the peak of our mission. You said youself the heavens are a wonderful sight, yes? Would you be willing to have a glimpse of Saturn's rings with me?"

Minako shyly extended a hand, nodding. Robo took the chrome hand in his own bronze one, and the two walked toward the bridge.

* * * * *

The only other person on the bridge was Captain Utema, silently sitting at his command chair, looking out the viewport. He tapped his fingers to music only he could hear as he viewed the heavens once again. Bland, eternal, and cold. He would have given almost anything to be back on Earth, in his home in Bangor City.

Ah well, he mused, the mission should be over shortly. We will take a look into the spacial anomalies, gather as much information as we can, and leave. I do not think that there will be any difficulties or hostile life forms barring our way. Nevertheless, Utema could not help but to feel a slight dread on what was to come. The captain sat there, his mind occupied, not hearing Robo and N-546 enter the room.

"Greetings, captain." came Robo's chiming voice. "How may we serve you?"

Utema took a look behind him, not suprised the least bit. "Ah, Robo, N-546, you are here." he turned around, giving the synthetics his full attention. "As you can see, we are nearing the outer reaches of Saturn. I require your prescence on the bridge, as you will be an asset to us when analyzing these anomalies." he silenced for a moment. "Ah, there she is..."

Robo and Minako switched their attention to the viewport. The planet Saturn was in full view, a truly magnificient planet. The swirl of clouds, the ring of ice and rock that surrounded it... beautiful. However, Robo felt something that he could only describe as strange when they were nearing their destinaiton. This did not bother him, though, when he gazed upon the splendor of the planet.

"Where exactly were the anomalies detected?" asked Robo.

Utema answered. "Around the edge of Saturn. We should be coming upon it in about an hour or so. I will require you here on the bridge while we are there, of course."

"Of course," said Robo. He continued to look out of the viewport as they closed in on their destination.

* * * * *

The Tengu had arrived at its destinaiton at last, after a long voyage. The bridge was bustling with activity, mostly from the three scientists of the crew. The commander of the marines was there as well. As the ship made its way around beautiful Saturn, everyone on the bridge anxiously awaited for what they came for. It was...

"Nothing." said Utema, not with disgust but with a bland, monotonous voice. "Not a goddamned thing."

Minako Aino was standing at attention against the wall. Robo, being next to the captain, offered some advice.

"Sir, maybe what is there is not visible to the naked eye, or possibly we have to wait and see."

"He's right," said a scientist, pointing out of the viewport. "Look."

At first it seemed like space, nothing in particular looking interesting or obvious. Then, suddenly it changed. There was a... something that could only be described as a ripple in the void, and almost instantly there was a large area in space that was... black. Not the black of space, filled with stars and nebulas, but pitch black, as if someone had spilled wet, dark paint onto the heavens. The black patch rippled once again, then was still. Though it defied all laws of reality, some of the people could swear that they heard a sound of some sort as the black patch was being formed.

"Good God..." came the voice of a scientist.

The Marine Commander, a burly man with a black mohawk, wearing a grey shirt with camoflauged slacks, folded his arms, chewing on a toothpick.

"I don't like it," he said. "Not one bit."

Minako was close to the viewport now, entranced. "It's almost like it's.. alive..."

"Send a probe," said Utema in a commanding voice. "and let it gather a sample."

"Aye," said a scientist, rapidly typing commands at his console.

Robo watched the black patch in the heavens, silent... and he feared.

* * * * *

The robotic probe sped off toward the Black Hole. The crew had, on an unspoken vote, dubbed the dark patch with that name. Even though it was not technically an actual collapsed star, no one could think of a better name to call it.

"Sir, I have a bad feeling about this." said the Marine Commander in a respectful tone. "I have my finest men and women ready to assist should anything--"

"There will be no need for that, commander." said Utema in his deep, baritone voice. Under his breath, he added "I hope..."

The probe reached the Black Hole, silently speeding through the heavens. However, when it reached the void, it stopped. Defying the rules of inertia, it simply stopped right in front of the dark patch. Once there, it hovered up and down slowly, as if contemplating what was to come. It made no other move than that.

"What is going on?" growled a scientist, furiously pounding away at the keys of his keyboard. "Report!"

Another scientist meekly answered. "I do not know, sir. The probe was not programmed to make any sudden stop. I have no answers on how it was able to stop so suddenly either." his words fell on deaf ears, however.

"I'm trying to use manual control to push it into the Black Hole, captain." said the third scientist, typing in commands while using a joystick-like device. The probe made no move, however. "Damn you, move!"

As if on cue, the probe suddenly came back to life again. Not moving on its own, it was literally sucked into the Black Hole. All video and audio contact was lost, the monitors going into static.

"The probe's gone!" yelled the first scientist, though that was already quite obvious.

Minako pressed her hands to the viewport, gazing into the darkness. "Turn around..." she said softly, almost too softly to hear. Robo heard her, however.

"Captain, I sense something wrong. We must turn around."

Utema was silent, looking upon the Black Hole with a look of anger. "Fine," he said. "Set a course for several hundred thousand kilometers away from the anomaly, then we shall figure out what to do next." the captain pressed a few buttons, while a scientist at the helm grasped the wheel-like device that was responsible for turning the ship. He gave it a spin. Nothing happened.

"What the fu..."

There was a shudder.

"Captain! Sensors indicate that we are being drawn into the Black Hole at an increasing rate!" Robo yelled out.

There was a shudder.

"Controls are not responding, captain!" came the voice of a scientist. "There is nothing I can do!"

Minako was at the wheel, using her strength to try and turn it more. The metal groaned in protest, and she stopped before the wheel would inevitably break under the pressure.

Space is deep.

Minako paused. Where had that come from? She could have sworn that it had been whispered to her. Meanwhile, the ship was getting closer and closer to the Black Hole. She moved herself near Robo, seeing if there was anything else she could do to help.

Space is deep...

There it was again! Minako looked around the room in confusion. Nobody was near her, nobody could have whispered it to her like that. Out of the corner of her eye, she thought that she saw somehting short and blue scurry past the door to the bridge, and she was about to inquire or look into it, but was interrupted by one of the scientists.

"Captain! The probe! It came back!"

Sure enough, the probe was visible again. It was almost as if it had been spat out of the darkness, and was now hurtling toward the ship.

The name of the nameless dead...

Minako felt fear. The whisper had come again, and it was even louder now, as if it was building up or something. She placed a hand on Robo's shoulder, but just as she did that, the android whirled around, grabbing the captain and everyoen else that he could away from the viewport.

"The probe is closing in too fast! Collision in imminent! Evacuate!" he yelled. He hurled the captain and a scientist out of the bridge, opening the door to let everyone out. When everyone was accounted for, he began to shut the door to seal it. Just as he was doing so, he saw one of the scientists still trapped in there, his face white with fear, scrambling to the door. However, the probe was closing in faster and faster. Robo reached out a hand for the young man, but a massive dark hand grabbed the door and slammed it shut. Utema.

"I'm sorry.." he said. As he shut it, an explosion racked the ship, and the door, double-sealed, radiated enormous amounts of heat, but did not break down. The captain had a look of anguish on his face, and Robo understood. In order to save the rest of them, the captain had to sacrifice the life of that man. And from the looks of it, Utema was not taking it lightly.

"We have to evacuate!" came the voice of the Marine Commander.

"How?" asked Minako. "We are being drawn into the anomaly, and will not be able to..."

Follow me.

Out of the corner of her eye, Minako saw again the short blue shape scurrying down a corridor. She could not explain how, but she felt that they had to follow the thing. It would lead them to safety.

"Follow me!" she shouted, and ran down the corridor. The others, in a frenzy of confusion, followed. Only Robo understood her, and willingly followed, making sure that the others were catching up, and alerting any crew member they came across of the present situation.

* * * * *

Though no one could see it, the Black Hole was slowly taking shape. As the ship drew in closer and closer, there was another ripple in the anomaly, and it became... an eye. The shape lasted only for a split second, then it returned to the dark patch it once again was.

* * * * *

The crew, minus one, were in the eject pod, awaiting departure from the doomed ship. Already, people could feel the shuddering and hear the tearing of metal as the ship was being ripped apart. Robo and Minako were attending to the controls as fast as they could. Everybody was also donning pressurized suits as fast as they could, though it did not seem fas enough.

Suddenly, there was a scream.

Everyone turned around. A marine, eyes bulging out, clawing at thin air, thrashing against soemthing that no one could see. Several of his companions came to his side, but were thrown off by him. He was screamign like a madman, looking in front of him, sweat pouring down his face.

"Jerran! What is wrong? Jerran!" yelled the Marine Commander, grabbing thew shoulders of the screaming man. Suddenly, the man stopped screaming. He turned around slowly, looking the commander straight in the eye. He grinned feverishly...

"It is them."

Jerran's face cracked in two, as did the rest of his body. Blood spilled upon the floor, spurted all over the cramped eject pod. His eyes rolled out of their sockets and were crushed by his falling body. The man's brains leaked out of his cracked skull onto the floor, and several internal organs could be seen sticking out of his chest.

But the worst part of it was that Jerran was still alive.

He screamed again, somehow making the sound even though his face was split in two. He pounded his head against the floor over and over, screaming. Someone vomited. Others yelled in confusion and horror. The commander backed slowly away from his fallen comrade, confused and terrified. Suddenly, it was as if someone had grabbed him by the throat. He was raised into the air.. and then saw what unfortunate Jerran had seen. The commander's screams were less, though. Almost instantly after this happened, he gagged, and blood poured out of his mouth. His stomach was sliced open, and his intestines, quivering and slick with fluid, fell upon the ground. The commander let out a scream of pain and fear as his throat was torn out of him by unknown hands, and he fell upon the gore-stained floor, twitching grotesquely in spasms.

The rest of the crew was in panic, scrambling as far away from the two bodies as they could. Minako and Robo stood near each other, silent, frightened, not knowing what was happening. Thus, they did not notice the readouts or hear the alarm siren over the voices of the terrified crew. It was only when it was too late that they realize dthat they made a mistake by leaving the controls alone for too long.

There was a ripping sound as the hull was torn apart... and then silence. Absolute silence. Robo and Minako clung to each other tightly, witnessing the silent death of the crew. They watched as explosive decompression took affect. The breath of the humans became a fine red mist, and their vessels bulged out before their lifeblood spurted out, crystalized in the cold of space. They frantically grasped their throats or thrashed around, buut to no avail. They all were dead. All but Utema, who had his own pressure suit on and was attending to the others before the gruesome spectacle took place. He spun past the two androids, thrashing, drawn into the Black Hole.

Robo and Minako just clung to each other, traumatized, as they silently drifted, along with the captain, into the patch of darkness in space.

The darkness closed in upon itself, changing shape to an eye once again befor eit completely vanished.

Following the three survivors, somehow maneuvering itself through the vacuum of space, was a Nu.


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