Another year, another conundrum.

It was an unspoken rule at the SSA: make sure all buttons were properly labeled. Well, perhaps it wasn’t so much unspoken as it was taken for granted. Lt. Wolfy doubted it would ever be taken for granted again. The unthinkable had happened: someone hadn’t labeled the button.

“As was their wont, Kdskid007 was wandering around after their last group of raptors had already been assigned their transporter time. They had gotten a bit bored and their flamethrower had been locked away for everyone’s safety, at least, until all the raptors had been dealt with.

They shuffled along and then noticed the bank of buttons near the transporter. Kdskid007 walked up to it and put their hand on the tempting red button before anyone could stop them.

“Hey, guys?” Kdskid007 called out, “What’s this button do?”

For a moment, no one moved. No one could. There was the sound of flesh hitting flesh; multiple people had smacked themselves on the forehead with the heel of their hand. For a long moment that was the only sound, until a bright flash of light threw shadows over the walls, causing temporary blindness for those unlucky enough to be near the windows. Wolfy was one of those. Throwing her arm up over her eyes was too late. After the first initial flash of light came the noise.

It was hard to say how there could be noise; after all, it was the vacuum of space. But such things happen around the SSA, more often than one would care to admit. They defied the laws of physics — and good sense — more often than not.

The sound itself made Wolfy’s overly sensitive ears twitch and ring. It was like hearing a piece of fabric torn apart and then amplified a thousand-fold. Once it faded, the echoes of it continued to ring through the halls. All the cacophony brought those that had already started to depart running back in. They stopped dead and could only stare out the window, slack jawed. Even Lt. Wolfy, normally pretty unflappable, stared out the window, her eyes as wide as saucers.

Swirling outside the windows of the SSA was what looked to be a whirling mass of silver and white energy. It pulsed, alive and yawning. Wolfy blinked, hoping it was some form of hallucination (because hallucinating would be so much better…). But it remained, a gaping maw of ether.

“Oops…”  Wolfy turned her head slowly to look at Kds. Her fellow Academy instructor and ML wore a sheepish grin as they slowly backed away from the offending button.

—–

Wolfy’s reflection stared back at her as she gazed out the window once more. Her arms were behind her back as she contemplated the behemoth beyond the plexi-glass. It would have been inviting; if she didn’t have a suspicious nature. Anything that beckoned was automatically suspect.

“Are you brooding again?”

Wolfy’s head turned. One corner of her mouth twitched up. “I wouldn’t call it brooding, necessarily, Captain.”

Behind Elyndra, there was hustle and bustle as preparations for the arrival of the new batch of cadets was under way.

“What would you call it then?”

“Contemplating?” Wolfy suggested, though she shrugged. She tried to relax, but the set of her shoulders belied her nonchalant stance. Turning to fully face her commanding officer, she put the massive anomaly at her back.

Elyndra slung an arm around Wolfy’s shoulders. “Don’t worry too much. We’ll figure it all out. We have some sensors deployed now. You know we have the best of the best here at the SSA.”

“I’m aware.” Wolfy tried to shake off her sense of unease.

“C’mon. We have the new cadets coming in soon. We should help get ready.”

“You’re right, Captain.” Wolfy nodded. Letting out a deep breath, she inclined her head. “I’ll be right behind you.” As Elyndra proceeded her, the Lt. swiveled her gaze around once more to look broodingly out the window. Then, as promised, she followed after her Captain, trying to put it out of her mind.

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