- Surge Tank
- Horrified Face
Awakening after traveling light years off course, a ship's crew struggles to discover just how far they've come.
The episode begins with a freight spaceship - The Blue Goose - in a line of ships heading towards a surge point gate. As the Blue Goose queues for its turn to enter the gate, its captain - Thom - looks outside and laments on the queue. Ray responds by lamenting on his hangover. After Thom checks with Ray and Suzy if the ship is ready to enter the gate, they all enter their surge tanks in preparation for the faster-than-light journey.
Thom and Suzy wake up in the ship - having been docked in a repair facility instead of its destination - and are greeted by an old friend of Thom's - Greta - who explains that they're in Saumlaki Station in Schedar Sector, that there was a routing error in the ship's navigation systems, and that Arkangel Dispatch must have had a glitch in their syntax launch patterns. Suzy responds with disbelief and attempts to get up, but she stumbles over and Thom and Greta put her back into her tank. Greta then escorts Thom outside the Blue Goose and into Saumlaki Station.
A while passes, and Thom is now in the station's bar. Greta - now dressed in an alluring night dress - walks towards him and sits down on the sofa next to him. They admire the view outside the bar and she leans towards him to tell him a secret: that she was hoping to bump into Thom again after the fling they had together four years ago. They then proceed to have sex in Greta's cabin.
Some more time passes, and Thom is sitting on Greta's bed. His mind continues to be troubled by the events that had folded. Greta confesses that she hasn't been completely honest with Thom. She admits that they're not actually in Schedar Sector, and that the routing error has taken him far beyond what she originally let on. She gets out of the bed and presents a holographic map demonstrating that Saumlaki Station is, in fact, 150,000 light-years from Earth.
Thom - upset by the news - asks Greta how long he and his crew were in their tanks for. Greta responds that - in subjective time - they were in their tanks for only a few months, but several centuries have passed back home on Earth. Thom struggles to come to terms with what Greta just told him, and yells at her that he may as well be dead. Greta tells him that he is still alive, and that she ended up in Saumlaki Station in the same way he did: a routing error. She tells him that it's always the same routing error, and that it has brought everyone to the station. She then suggests that he should wake up his crew from their tanks.
Thom wakes up Suzy and asks her to recall the last thing she can remember. Suzy describes Arkangel in unpleasant terms, then dreams: dreams like the encounter she is in right now. She notices Greta in the corner and asks Thom who she is. When Thom responds that it's his old friend Greta, Suzy immediately counters this by stating that it's not Greta. Suzy yells at Greta demanding to know who and "what" she is, implying that she might be aware of the true nature of Greta and the environment the Blue Goose crew are in.
Suzy screams at Thom to look at Greta, before lashing out at Greta. Suzy snatches the statue from Greta's hands and attempts to stab her with it. Suzy manages to scrape Greta's neck with the statue, but Greta successfully counters her by injecting a tranquilizer needle into her chest. Suzy is knocked out, and Greta leaves Thom to take Suzy back to her tank by himself.
Back at the cabin, Thom observes Greta's neck as she sleeps, and notices that the cut Suzy inflicted on her has disappeared. He then says to Greta that Suzy is right about her, and that she isn't actually Greta. Greta - realizing that she can no longer hide the truth from Thom - responds to him by telling him that his entire surroundings is just a simulation being fed to his mind, and that he is still asleep in his tank.
Thom demands the whole truth from Greta, who resists by telling him that he is not ready. Thom tells her that he wants to see the station - and Greta herself - for what they truly are. After a tearful Greta continues to resist an increasingly angry and aggressive Thom's demands, she eventually caves in, but not before telling him that she does care for him and that she cares for "all the lost souls that end up here". Thom stares into the camera, anticipating the world outside of her simulation.
Thom wakes up in his tank and is greeted with the horrifying reality that his body was in for all this time: an alien hive containing several wrecked ships that had also ended up there via the routing error. Thom himself is severely emaciated to the point his skeleton can be clearly seen, and his hair and beard have grown to unkempt levels.
As he speechlessly looks around his surrounding and spots the long-dead bodies of his crew, he hears Greta calling out to him from inside the back of his wrecked ship. He looks inside to see a silhouette of what appears to be a busty humanoid female figure walking towards him, before the silhouette walks into the light and reveals Greta in her true form: a giant spider-ant alien creature with many eyes.
Thom loses his mind at the sight of the horrifying-looking alien, and screams at her as she continues to crawl towards him. The alien - having witnessed Thom's inability to handle the reality, just as she predicted - eventually places his mind back into her simulation, and in the process, erasing all his memories up to the point he woke up in the tank in the simulation.
In the simulation, Thom is in his tank once again. The liquid drains out of the tank and Thom wakes up. He gets out of the tank and is greeted by Greta once again, but in her simulation form. Thom asks what happened and Greta lies to him by saying that they're in Saumlaki Station, before remarking that at least there's a friendly face in the far-away station, echoing what Thom had said in the previous simulation.
The final shot depicts Saumlaki Station in its entirety. As the camera zooms out, the simulation flickers out to reveal the station's true form: a hive surrounded by wrecked ships.
- Beyond the Aquila Rift is based on the short story of the same name written by Alastair Reynolds, who also wrote the original story for Zima Blue.
- Greta's true form makes an appearance twice in the simulation: through a glass bottle as she sits with him in the bar, and as a shadow against a wall as she tells him that he's in a simulation.
- It is likely that Thom is not the first member of the Blue Goose crew that the creature has interacted with. Based on how Greta manipulated Suzy's actions in the simulation for Thom's mind, it might be that Suzy was actually the first to interact with Greta's simulations, and that she is basing Suzy's actions in Thom's simulation on what happened in Suzy's. Suzy's corpse is in remarkably better shape than Ray's, so it might not have been long since she died.
- Philip Gelatt stated that he thinks the creature's intentions are pure and that it wants Thom to be happy.
- It's likely that the real Greta also ended up in saumlaki stations, There some indication throughout the film (1) Fake Greta know about the past of both of them. (2) The fake Greta also says she also ended up in saumlaki station. (3) When Ray wakes up, being her waking up is also an simulation that spider lady plays in the dream of Thom and knowing how she react because she also simulated Ray's dream when she was alive, Her acting like Greta also shows that once she had done the same to the real Greta that's why she know her past, she knows how she react with others. That's how maybe the real Greta is also dead.
Below are screenshots of the episode.