The Janus Anomaly

By Joe Vasicek | May, 2019


Artwork by Jose Baetas.

>EFS JANUS

>VICINITY OF KAPTEYN'S STAR (GLIESE 191)

>MISSION DAY 103

>2100 HOURS

My name is Lieutenant Mariana Dusilova, and I am the chief communications officer of the EFS Janus. I realize that I am in violation of Earthfleet protocol by keeping this record outside of the ship's main server, but I have chosen to do this because I believe that the sanity of my crew-mates may have been compromised. I hope that this personal log will provide a clear record of events as they actually transpired. If instead, I am the one who is not completely sane, I am prepared to submit myself to a full medical examination and any disciplinary action that Earthfleet sees fit.

The situation began on mission day 92 when we investigated an anomaly on the far side of Kapteyn's Star. The colonists at Gliese 191 (New Chelyabinsk) reported a radio signal emitting from a known rogue planet about .4 light-years distant. We arrived at New Chelyabinsk on mission day 89, refueled, and departed for the rogue planet on day 90.

Before I continue, I should give you some background on our mission, if for no other reason than to confirm that I still remember it correctly. The EFS Janus is a survey and patrol ship on a 180 day tour of the Gliese colonies, with orders to chart all potential FTL routes and investigate any significant points of interest. While the Janus is a military vessel, the mission is primarily scientific in nature.

We arrived at the rogue planet at 0645 and began a survey. It was a large super-Jupiter with three Earth-sized moons, two of which had significant cryo-volcanic activity. On the third and most distant moon, we discovered the wreck of an alien starship, probably of Hyadian origin. It was from this wreckage that the radio signal was emitting.

At 1730 we sent a science team down to investigate. I was on duty on the bridge when they landed.

"I'm seeing some movement over by the primary door," Corporal Johnson said. "It looks almost like ... like smoke."

I frowned and glanced at the captain. Johnson's video feed was on the main screen, but there was nothing in view like he was describing.

"Can you repeat that, Johnson?" Captain Andrecyk asked.

"It's rising about two meters above the fuselage ... coming together into some sort of ... oh my god!"

"Are you picking this up?" Lieutenant Amanda Strauss asked. As the mission's chief xeno-archaeologist, she was the team leader.

"Negative, lieutenant," I said. "Can you give us a clearer picture?"

"I'm looking right at it," she said. "If you can't--"

"It's coming right at us!" Corporal Johnson shouted. His head-cam went shaky as he turned and ran.

For a very brief moment, I thought I saw something on Lieutenant Strauss's video feed. It wasn't a cloud of smoke, or anything that took a solid shape: just a very dim ball of green light, almost outside of view. It grew brighter, and she screamed.

One by one, all of the members of the science team fell unconscious. Captain Andrecyk raised the general quarters and sent down a squad of marines to rescue them. The rescue proceeded without incident, and all the scientists were recovered safely. As soon as everyone was on board, we nuked the wreckage with a fifty kiloton warhead and broke orbit.

In the next three days, everyone on the crew came down with a mild stomach flu. I came down with it on the third day at the tail end of my shift, and reported straight to sick bay.

"Looks like you've got what everyone else got," the doctor, Lieutenant Johan Wiesner told me. "Best I can do is give you an anti-diarrheal and prescribe some R&R."

"What do you mean, everyone's got it?" I asked.

"Exactly what I said. My guess is that something got contaminated in the kitchen and we all ate it. But don't worry, it should pass soon."

I had known that a lot of us had come down with it, but I had no idea that the entire crew had been affected. In retrospect, I should have investigated that, but it seemed that Captain Andrecyk and the doctor had the situation under control. As communications officer, it wasn't my responsibility or area of authority, so I let the matter go.

Doctor Wiesner was right: the flu passed soon enough. Within twenty-four hours I was fit enough to return to duty, as were most of the crew. I used the extra down time to prepare my incident report of the encounter at the rogue planet.

That was when things began to get strange.

On mission day 97, I reported to the bridge at 0600 and logged into my console, as per usual. Captain Andrecyk was on deck, with Lieutenant Cooper on the helm.

"I've submitted my incident report for the anomaly outside Kapteyn's Star, Captain," I reported.

He gave me a puzzled look. "What anomaly, Lieutenant?"

I frowned, not sure how to take his question. "The one we investigated last week, sir," I stated hesitantly.

"We have investigated no anomalies in the vicinity of Kapteyn's Star."

"Uh, sir," I stammered, not sure how to address the issue without flatly contradicting him. "What about the other incident reports from the crew?"

"I have received no other reports. This is the first I've heard of it."

Now I was thoroughly confused. Lieutenant Cooper had been on the helm when Strauss's team encountered the anomaly, but he had the same blank look on his face as the captain. The only explanation that made any sense was that they were playing some kind of prank on me.

"Very funny, Captain," I said. "In any case, my report--"

"This is not a laughing matter," Captain Andrecyk said. "Are you feeling well, Lieutenant Dusilova? Do you need to report to sick bay?"

I took a deep breath. "I don't think so, sir. Doctor Wiesner cleared me for duty yesterday at 2100."

"Even so, I think you may need a second evaluation. I need all the officers on this ship to be in peak physical and mental shape at all times."

"Yes, sir," I said, logging off from my console. As I rose to my feet to leave, confusion and frustration welled up inside of me, and I clenched my fists by my side.

"What about the warhead?" I blurted.

Captain Andrecyk frowned. "The warhead, Lieutenant?"

"Yes, sir. The fifty-kiloton warhead we detonated over the anomaly after rescuing Lieutenant Strauss's team?"

"I'll look into it," he said, dismissing me with a wave of his hand. It was clear I wouldn't get very far with another breach of protocol, so I left and reported to sick bay.

"Feeling sick again?" Doctor Wiesner asked as I stepped inside. The place was notably less crowded than it had been a few days ago.

"I'm feeling fine, Doctor," I said. "But the captain thinks there's something wrong with my mental state and asked me to report for an examination."

"Very well. Please have a seat, Mariana, and tell me what's going on."

I sat down on the examining table and leaned heavily on my knees.

"It happened when I submitted my report about the anomaly from a couple of days ago. He denies that it ever happened and says he hasn't received any other reports except mine."

Doctor Wiesner cocked his head. "He denied that it happened?"

"Yes. I thought it was a prank, but apparently he really means it."

"That's very strange. I'll perform the examination to fulfill his orders, but I'm sure we'll share words about it soon."

"Thanks, Doctor," I said, sighing in relief.

The fact that Doctor Wiesner believed me did a lot to ease my peace of mind. I was starting to feel as if I had gone crazy, since my memory of the incident was still quite fresh. Indeed, it still is to this day. I can clearly remember the ball of green light on Lieutenant Strauss's head-cam feed, and the sound of her scream still sends shivers down my spine.

I sought her out after Doctor Wiesner finished with the examination. She was in the mess hall, eating breakfast.

"How are you feeling, Amanda?" I asked as I assumed the seat across the table from her.

"Better," she said, swallowing a spoonful of oatmeal. "I must have the weakest stomach on the ship, though. Feels like I was the last one to recover."

I laughed. "You and me both."

After exchanging a bit of small talk, I asked her about the incident at the rogue planet. To my utter surprise, she gave me a blank stare.

"What incident?"

"You know, the one with the team that you led to the Hyadian wreckage. The one where we had to send a squad down to rescue you and nuked the site from orbit."

"I don't know what you're talking about, Lieutenant. Are you feeling all right?"

I was speechless. Some of the people at the nearby tables were starting to stare at us, so I politely excused myself at the first opportunity.

In my personal time after my shift on the bridge, I looked up the ship's log for mission day 92. Since I'd been on duty when the incident had occurred, I knew that it had to be in the log. But there was no mention of it at all. The only thing it said was that we had refueled at New Chelyabinsk on day 91 and embarked for Epsilon Eridiani without incident.

It was at that moment that I realized I could no longer discuss this issue with the captain, or in any way let him know about my concerns. Tampering with the ship's logs is a serious breach of protocol, and the only person with read-write access on the ship is the captain himself. A log entry would have been automatically generated by the AI when we fired the warhead, so it was obvious that the captain had tampered with it.

Or was it? I admit, I felt my first true pang of self-doubt as I stared in confusion at the empty screen. Had I imagined up the whole incident? Were Captain Andrecyk and Lieutenant Strauss correct? It strained credulity to think that they had conspired against me, or that the captain would risk a court-martial over something so trivial.

But two things convinced me that I was right: the fact that Doctor Wiesner had a clear memory of the incident, and an exchange with Captain Andrecyk the next day.

On mission day 98, I reported to the bridge at 0600 as usual. Before I logged into my console, however, Captain Andrecyk walked up and leaned over my work station.

"Thank you for informing us of the missing warhead, Lieutenant Dusilova. After our conversation yesterday, I checked the ordinance stores and indeed found that we are one warhead short."

I was too dumbfounded to do anything but nod.

"In any case, it was probably a simple mistake on the part of the logistics office," he continued. "I shall report it when we return to Earth."

To me, the message was clear: never speak of this again, or you will regret it. I swallowed and nodded.

"Yes, sir."

Since then, I've become something of a pariah among the crew. Many of them have gone out of their way to avoid me, as if all of them somehow know. As far as I can tell, none of them except Doctor Wiesner remember what happened, as none of them have questioned the captain or shown any trace of concern. I do not bring up the subject with any of them for fear that they will isolate me further, or worse, report me to the captain.

I don't know what to do.

*****

>EFS JANUS

>VICINITY OF LUYTEN 143-23 (GLIESE 3618)

>MISSION DAY 105

>2030 HOURS

There was an extremely disturbing incident today, and I'm still not sure what to make of it. I fear that the captain has gone rogue and that our mission has been compromised.

At approximately 1710, while traveling en route to Epsilon Eridiani, we detected an Alcubierre bubble passing through nearby space. I was on duty when this occurred. The FTL signature was consistent with civilian traffic to the nearby colony, but Captain Andrecyk immediately called the crew to battle stations and moved us into pursuit.

At 1925, we matched position and flew in close enough to merge bubbles and send a message. The captain wanted to order the ship to drop out of FTL and submit to inspection, standard procedure for dealing with suspected pirates. Even though I was 90% sure that the ship was just a colony transport, I thought for sure that the captain would back down once he realized that.

We transmitted the message, and the ship obediently dropped out of FTL. When we were close enough to identify the ship, we saw that it was indeed a colony transport: the Elon Musk, heading for Luyten 143-23.

"Jam their transmissions and prepare a boarding party," Captain Andrecyk said. "Cooper, bring us in."

I froze, not sure what to do. The captain had just ordered an attack on a civilian ship that showed no sign of pirate activity, yet no one seemed to object to it. In fact, as I looked from face to face, they all seemed perfectly calm, as if the captain's orders were perfectly natural.

"Uh, Captain," I said, "the Elon Musk is hailing us."

"Ignore their transmission and proceed."

The back of my neck began to feel sweaty. I watched as Lieutenant Cooper and the other officers went about their tasks, completely unconcerned that we were about to open fire on civilians.

The Elon Musk sent us another transmission, which I used as an opportunity to bring up the issue again.

"Captain, we're receiving another transmission. They demand an explanation."

"I told you, Dusilova, maintain radio silence!"

"They aren't going to take that for an answer, sir."

The captain glared at me. "Then stall for time, Lieutenant--use your head and make something up."

My hands were shaking at this point. The Elon Musk was nearly within strike range, and I could tell from the captain's tone of voice that if he couldn't board and capture the ship, he would shoot it out of the sky. Indeed, our weapons were already trained on them, and the beeping of our tracking system as we attempted to get missile lock sounded loudly in my ears.

I didn't know what to do, but I knew that if I didn't disobey orders, the blood of all those colonists would be on my hands. So I disobeyed orders and sent the Elon Musk an unambiguous threat.

My intention was to tip our hand and make us appear as pirates. It worked. Just as we got missile lock, the Elon Musk went back to FTL.

The other officers were stunned. Captain Andrecyk slammed his fist into the armrest of his command chair and issued a highly unprofessional string of curses. I studied everyone's faces in the hopes of finding anyone else who was relieved at the turn of events, but could find no one.

"Dusilova!" he screamed at me. "I ordered you to stall for time, not to appraise the enemy of our attack."

"I'm sorry, sir, I--"

"You are confined to quarters until further notice. Get out!"

As scary as it was to incur the captain's wrath, the glares of my crew-mates as I walked off the bridge were far, far worse. It was as if I had betrayed them and was working for "the enemy," whomever that might be.

Am I the only sane person left on this ship?

*****

>EFS JANUS

>VICINITY OF LP 145-141 (GLIESE 440)

>MISSION DAY 107

>1315 HOURS

I managed to convince the captain that my actions were the result of incompetence, not a willful breach of orders. I am to report back to duty tomorrow.

If he hadn't believed me, I'm not sure what he would have done. He's not the same man that I knew before we investigated the anomaly at Kapteyn's star. The Captain Andrecyk I knew was calm and measured, even when under great stress. Now, he seems ready to explode at the slightest provocation. Granted, disobeying his orders was not a slight thing to do, but the look on his face as he screamed at me ... I'm not sure who he is anymore.

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure who I am either. It still seems as if the crew is trying to isolate me, though that may just be because I spent two days confined to my quarters. I dare not write down all of my concerns, for fear that I'll be taken as paranoid. Still, I cannot in good conscience keep the truth hidden. As they say in my native Czech, "truth prevails."

I sincerely hope that this is only a case of temporary madness, which will pass if properly treated. But it's difficult to convince everyone that they are sick when you're the only one who's well. After the incident with the Elon Musk, I have to tread lightly.

*****

>EFS JANUS

>VICINITY OF LP 145-141 (GLIESE 440)

>MISSION DAY 108

>0745 HOURS

I've spoken privately with Doctor Wiesner, who agrees with my assessment and is taking steps to treat the captain. If we can bring Captain Andrecyk back onto our side, maybe we can help the rest of the crew to receive treatment. That is the plan.

We were supposed to resupply at Gliese 3618 two days ago, but instead have kept nearly a straight course leading away from Sol. I suppose it's for the best, though; after the incident with the Elon Musk, I wouldn't put it past the captain to storm the small outpost and kill everyone on board.

I suppose this officially means that we've gone rogue. When the Elon Musk reports us, Earthfleet is bound to send a detachment to subdue and capture or destroy us. I just hope that we can bring the rest of their crew to their senses before that happens.

*****

>EFS JANUS

>LOCATION UNKNOWN

>MISSION DAY 110

>2315 HOURS

Captain Andrecyk has stopped logging the Janus's position, and has ordered the astrogators to do the same. The thing that makes this especially disturbing, however, is the fact that we've been flying at maximum FTL since leaving the vicinity of LP 145-141 approximately 12 hours ago. I can only assume that the captain knows something that the rest of us don't, and that a detachment from Earthfleet is in pursuit.

By now, we could have traveled as far as three or four light-years. Where the captain is taking us, I don't know, but no one else seems concerned in the least. I even managed to ask Lieutenant Strauss what she thinks of this turn of events, and she laughed at me--she actually laughed at me! Apparently for some of us, this mission is just a picnic and all is fine and well.

Whatever the case, we are almost certainly moving away from Sol. What that means, I don't yet know.

*****

>EFS JANUS

>LOCATION UNKNOWN

>MISSION DAY 113

>0015 HOURS

My God, my God, my God! We've shot down an Earthfleet starship!

It happened barely three hours ago. I don't know the details because I wasn't on bridge duty at the time. All I know is that it was the EFS Hermes, a destroyer-class scout, and that we engaged it while in FTL.

I was taking a shower at the end of my shift when the call to battle stations sounded. There was no time to dress, so I ran to the nearest high-gee maneuver coffins on the crew deck and climbed in.

The ship's log says we were in combat for only twenty-five minutes, but it felt like hours. Even with the coffin's ample cushioning, I could feel every combat maneuver through to my very bones. I had no idea what was going on--only that there was a very real chance we'd all die.

When it was over, I climbed out of the coffin, collapsed to my knees, and vomited across the floor. Captain Andrecyk's voice came over the ship's loudspeakers as the others climbed out all around me.

"Attention crew: this is your captain speaking. Approximately half an hour ago, we were engaged at FTL by the EFS Hermes, which opened fire shortly after penetrating our Alcubierre bubble. In the ensuing battle, we took significant damage on the engine deck but managed to deal several critical hits on the Hermes. They have fallen out of FTL and are presumed to be destroyed."

I have never felt so sick as I did when the others cheered. It made me want to throw up all over again. I stumbled to my feet and rushed back to my quarters.

I can't believe we've actually done it: opened fire on another Earthfleet ship. I fervently hope that the Hermes survived, but this far out from Sol it's doubtful that anyone will ever find them. I feel like I'm trapped, that I'm naked in a monkey cage with no way to get out.

What do you do when you're the last sane person on a ship full of crazy? I was starting to think that some of it might just be in my head, but with the shooting of the Hermes, there's no room left for doubt. And yet, what can I do? I'm just the communications officer, and I'm already under suspicion after the incident with the Elon Musk.

I'll talk to Doctor Wiesner. He'll know what to do.

*****

>EFS JANUS

>LOCATION UNKNOWN

>MISSION DAY 113

>0815 HOURS

They've taken him. My God, they've taken him.

Doctor Wiesner is gone. There's no sign of him in his quarters, or in the sick bay, or anywhere else. There's even no mention of him on any of the ship's official records. It's as if he never existed.

What have they done with him? And if they suspect me of disloyalty, what will they do with me?

*****

>EFS JANUS

>LOCATION UNKNOWN

>MISSION DAY 115

>2015 HOURS

We're moving towards the Hyades Star Cluster, which means that we're probably on a course for Aldebaran. That's the only direction that makes sense, because that's the only Galactic jumpgate within range. I have no idea what we'll do once we get there, but it probably involves infecting more ships with whatever alien plague has infected us.

Fortunately, the captain doesn't seem to suspect me anymore. That, or there's been so much on his mind since the Hermes that I've slipped completely under the radar. I hope and pray that he'll come around, but whenever I see him I can't help but think of Doctor Wiesner and the fact that he's gone. What kind of a monster has Captain Andrecyk turned into? I don't want to find out.

The way I know that we're heading toward Aldebaran is that the captain is no longer keeping it secret. He periodically gives us these pep talks over the loudspeakers, talking about how we will take over the galaxy or some other such nonsense. Frankly, I'm too exhausted as it is to pay much attention to it. It takes all I have just to keep up the act that I'm one of them. After losing Doctor Wiesner, nothing surprises me anymore.

*****

>EFS JANUS

>VICINITY OF ALDEBARAN

>MISSION DAY 117

>1215 HOURS

The end is coming. I can feel it. I no longer have any hope left, for myself or for the crew. They are vapid in their blind obedience to the captain, like sheep following a bellwether. They know that I'm not one of them, but they aren't sure what to do about me. It's only a matter of time, though, before they turn on me like they turned on Doctor Wiesner.

We're almost at Aldebaran, which means that we're only days away from infecting the rest of the galaxy with this plague. I have to stop it. I don't dare hope to survive, for fear that it will keep me from doing what is necessary.

I keep asking myself if there's more that I could have done. Perhaps, but when I look back, I don't see how it could have been any different. If I had resisted earlier, they simply would have eliminated me, making it impossible for me to stop them. And whatever else happens, I must stop them.

My only regret is that I wasn't able to save any of my crew-mates. Even there, though, I don't see what else I could have done. When you are the last sane person in the world, everyone thinks that you are the crazy one. If there was some way to convince them to believe me, perhaps I could do something to save them. But they are too far gone to see just how crazy they have become, and it would be wrong to let them go any further. I know my duty.

After I have stopped them, I will do all within my power to get this record back to Earthfleet. Even so, I don't expect to succeed. Ultimately, though, it doesn't matter whether I am remembered as a hero or forgotten. The truth will prevail.

*****

ARCHIVAL NOTE

At 0315 Zulu on November 17th, the EFS Janus attacked the Aldebaran jumpgate and was subsequently destroyed by Protector craft. According to the Earthfleet ambassador stationed at the jumpgate, the Janus arrived at 0255 and moved into the starship queue without incident. Hostilities were initiated by a transmission from the Janus declaring that the jumpgate was under attack, although intelligence officials at the Earthfleet embassy confirm that the Janus did not arm weapons until after the transmission was made. The Protectors mobilized in response, and the situation quickly escalated to armed conflict.

There were no survivors from the Janus, but an escape pod was recovered with the body of Lieutenant Mariana Dusilova. She had suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was found clutching a data storage device, on which this record was found. An Earthfleet service knife was also found in the pod, which LT Dusilova had used to carve the following words into the wall of the pod:

PRAVDA VITEZI