It was soft, gentle, almost like the echo of some fading half-forgotten dream left behind on the pillow of a warm summer morning. Berna felt it there, in her mind, waiting for her. It should have been comforting, a reassurance of something living, like a docile pet in the hands of a child.
Something made Berna doubt. There was something about it being there which was not right. It did not belong there, and she had no idea what it was or how it got there. There was something wrong about this calm, docility too. The calming warmth of it, rather than reassuring, made her nervous.
Every one of them was nervous though. The whole crew were on edge. All examining everything they came into contact with in these early days. They were trained for it. They had all done it before, some like the Commander, Norton, a score of times or more. But still, every new world was… well… it was new.
Berna knew she should report this… this… whatever it was back to Command, or at the very least tell Norton there was something not quite right.
But Berna had been through the readouts, hers as well as the rest of the crew. They were constantly monitored. The lander too sent streams of data back, first to the ship orbiting up above and then on back to the Federation base.
She knew she should not ignore it, pretend it wasn’t happening, but all the data said there was nothing there. Berna feared the thing sitting there, almost purring, deep within her mind could be something she’d created herself. A something she’d made herself for all her nervousness, all her concern, all her doubt uncertainty and worry to focus on.
After all, the planet itself, K12V56, was so benign, so quiet, so peaceful, it would have set alarm bells off in any viewer of a sci-fi show. A planet this nice, this Eden-like, had to have some dark secret at the heart of it.
Part of their training had been to watch sci-fi shows and films, some dating back to the 20th Century. Back then, real people did the acting in the shows rather than have the computers create them. The crew listened to the books too. Apparently, back in those old days, people used to read words written on the page. It seemed so quaint when she’d seen those blocks of paper in a museum. People used to call that entertainment.
Berna sighed, feeling the warm weight shift and alter in its sleep as it lay there in her mind like a contented cat stretching out a paw. She could feel it there, curling around her mind, stretching its paws out deeper and further into all she was. It was calm and soothing, oozing through her mind, filling up the spaces between the thoughts that made her who she was.
Could it be real? Could it explain why this new world seemed so calm, so placid? Could this thing crawling through the corridors of her mind, setting up home there, be real?
Berna looked around at the rest of the crew sitting there, their date pods ignored in their hands, smiling blankly at nothing.
Then she felt the creature there in her own mind stretching and waking up.