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space station

Personally this is why I hate getting stuck in a small place with other people for hours on end…


Fit for Duty




Eric S. Brown



            The pen floated away from Clarkson’s hand as his body drifted backwards towards the wall behind his desk.  A trail of tiny red globules stretched from where he had stood to the hole in his forehead.

            Dirk watched in fascination at the apparent slow motion of it all.  His heavy mag-boots clomped on the metal of the floor as he walked over to the desk and sorted through the paperwork Commander Clarkson had been working on.  He flipped through it until he found the transfer order.  His teeth grinded in his mouth in anger as he read over it.  He’d expected it but had hoped nonetheless that it wouldn’t come to the point where it had now.  Waste fumes still lingered around the barrel of the gauss weapon clutched in his right hand.  He waved them away as he calmly said “Gravity on,” to the empty room.  Clarkson’s body and blood dropped to the floor with a loud thud and wet splashing sounds.  Dirk disengaged his mag-boots and walked towards the office’s exit.  “One down,” he muttered to himself, “Three to go.”

            Sarah was working in hydroponics when he found her.  Her long blond hair spilled over her shoulders as she leaned beside a row of roses she had planted in addition to the station’s normal required crops, checking the soil temp.  The whole idea of growing food naturally seemed redundant to Dirk on a state of the art station equipped with molecular rearrangers that could produce the same material in seconds, besides if the power ever failed, starving to death would be the least of one’s worries. 

            Sarah had heard the hiss of the doorway dilating open as he entered and had rose to greet him but her normally cheerful “hello” had turned into a scream as she saw the blood splattered on his uniform and the weapon in his hand.  He opened up sending a stream of super sonic, gas-projected needles into her mid-section.  She toppled to the floor, curling up in a ball against the pain as pool of her fluids spread out around her.  Dirk sniffed at the smell of urine and blood as he moved towards her. 

            Sarah tried to crawl away from him but her attempt at movement shifted the needles inside of her and she blacked out from the pain as tears burned in her pleading eyes.  Dirk pressed the cold metal of the barrel against the flesh of her face and pulled the trigger.

            Two decks above, Ben was having other kinds of problems. He’d been attending his normal upkeep of the station’s AI and computer core when something had slammed him out of the network and back into his own body.  He shook his head trying to recover from the shock.  He leaned over and checked his datajack in the neural interface node and tried again to enter.  This time his pathway was blocked by a wall of encryption codes so complex they would take him an hour or more to break through.  He disengaged and rocked back in his chair.  “What the hell is going on?” he muttered.   “Computer,” he said, trying a different approach, “ I need access to node 311 Zeta.”  The room remained silent but for his own breathing.  He leapt up from his seat and rushed over to check the AI’s audio circuits that allowed it to communicate vocally with the crew anywhere abroad the station. Had it been anyone other then Ben, they may have not have the notice the small burn marks on the circuit boards.  Someone had disabled the computer’s vocal capabilities while leaving it open to still be able to respond to their commands internally. 

            “Jesus,” Ben whispered.  Someone had bloody well sabotaged the system.  There was no other explanation.  He felt his hand reach instinctively for the sidearm he had carried on his belt when he had first arrived on the station month before.  His fingers brushed the empty space on his tool belt and he berated himself for becoming complacent.  He was the damn security officer after all.  He slammed his fist into a random console in a rage, and darted out of the computer core on a direct line for his quarters still wondering what in the hell was going on. 

            Hank had snuck away from the station prime.  He sat in an airlock on the station’s out ring, rolling a cigarette.  Having Sarah grow him some illegal tobacco was one his better ideas, he thought.  He missed the freedoms of Earth but at least out here on the station’s ring he could still indulge himself without anyone being the wiser.  He could smoke in peace and then just vent the leftovers out into space without contaminating the station’s whole atmosphere.  He popped the cigarette between his lips and lit it with a pale blue flame from the top of his wielding torch with it set to its lowest cutting mode.  Structural engineers would always have a home on stations like this one whether they liked it or not. 

            A shadow passed over the view port of the lock door on the station side.  Cussing under his breath, Hank nearly burnt himself snubbing out the smoke and cramming the butt into the pocket of his uniform.  He hopped up on his knees and made like he was working on the outer door’s opening mechanism.  When no one entered he turned to see Dirk smiling at him through the seaport.  He raised his hand to wave as the door opened sending Hank sprawling out into the cold blackness beyond. 

            Ben’s quarters were chaos.  Computer pieces and junk lay everywhere.  Ben swept the holo-projector he’d been building from his desk and plopped down into the room’s only chair in front of his security station console.  He shoved his datajack into the interface hoping against hope the saboteur hadn’t remembered about this direct access point to the AI’s core.  Colors swirled around in his perceptions as his mind plunged into the machine.  Then suddenly everything changed.  Waves upon waves of pain struck him as the AI howled in the silence of electrical space.  Viruses were everywhere attacking it from every point and it pulled him like a maelstrom.  “Murder!” the AI wailed over and over as its consciousness intermingled with his own.  Ben fought to get free but the collapsing pathway’s cyber-undertow was too great.  He became one with the AI in an even deeper sense as the viruses ate them/it alive. 

            Dirk sat on the edge of Ben’s bed.  The lock to his room had been easy enough to override.  He stared at the officer’s twitching mindless form still plugged into the core, and laughed.  It was over now.  They wouldn’t be sending him home after all.  He was alone now, the only living human in the whole sector and abroad the station.  Forging reports back to Earth command would prove easy enough.  Space was his and his alone out here.   He chuckled to himself knowing he was fit for all the other duties that lay ahead.