Saturday, AC April 8
Just Outside of Station 16
Sennett sat in her seat, staring at what little of the front window she could see. Since she was seated in the last row of the ship, that wasn’t much.
Fernie sat next to her, flipping through screens on her wrist pad. Sennett tapped her foot, wishing she had a pack of gum. She opened her wrist pad, flipping through the books she had. None of them seemed appealing, though they were all books she’d been fascinated in weeks before. Of course, that’s when she hadn’t had the time to read them. Now that she had nothing else to do but read, they all seemed like a bore.
“You seem tense,” Fernie said.
“No, not tense,” Sennett muttered, fiddling with the zipper at the top of her jacket. It was rubbing her neck raw. “I’m bored. Bored as hell.”
“Yeah, trips like this can be pretty boring,” Fernie said. “The almost dying parts in between help you appreciate that kind of thing, though.”
“Does that happen often? The whole almost dying thing?” Sennett asked.
“Sometimes,” Fernie said, “I mean, we’ve had some bad luck, mostly.”
“Bad luck?” Lee asked, “Is that what we’re calling it?”
“Yeah, we’re calling it bad luck,” Evelyn said, from her seat at the front of the ship.
“The mess on Station 98,” Wesley said, from his seat next to Evelyn.
“Drug runners aren’t bad luck,” Evelyn said. “They’re a sad inevitability.”
“What about that little accident with that cruiser?” Narumi asked, “I’m pretty sure at least one of those people want to sue us. We can never go back to that station.”
“Too bad for them,” Evelyn muttered.
“What about the dog thing on Station 5?” Lee asked.
“What dog thing?” Sennett asked, looking up quickly.
“Not that kind of dog, real ones,” Evelyn said, “and it’s not a story I want told.”
“She accidentally got on the bad side of a pack of stray dogs,” Lee said. “Apparently they weren’t looking after their population well, and they just had all these strays all over the station. They asked us to help out, get the dogs to some good homes.” Turning to Evelyn with a grin he said, “Guess someone’s not good with dogs.”
“Just said I didn’t want that story told,” Evelyn said. She looked up at the navigation screen above her. “We’ll be there in a few minutes. Get ready, guys.”
Despite how little she could see from the back, Sennett still caught sight of Station 16. “Wow,” she said, “It looks just like 86.”
“Course it does,” Evelyn said. “All these things are uniform, for the most part. Some little things will be different inside. But Galitech didn’t bother with a whole bunch of different blueprints. This model worked, they made more.”
“We might have a problem,” Wesley said, looking down at his control. “I can’t communicate with the automatic shuttle doors.”
“What does that mean?” Fernie asked.
“It means the doors won’t open and we can’t get in the station,” Sennett said. She laid back in her seat, tapping her wrist pad.
“The security’s locked the whole place down,” Wesley said.
“What about our override codes?” Lee asked.
“Not working,” Wesley replied, “And there could be a hundred and five reasons for that.”
“Damn, this whole thing might be a waste of time,” Evelyn said.
“Wait, maybe I can find a back door,” Sennett said.
“What are you talking about?” Evelyn snapped, “It’s a space station, not a farmhouse.”
“Funny,” Sennett said, “I’ve got a friend from Earth who will appreciate that one when I get back. But I actually meant a back door to the security system.”
Fernie and Narumi exchanged concerned looks. “Can you do that?” Fernie asked.
“Maybe,” Sennett said, “I have a smart ass genius for a little brother. He kind of knows how to do this kind of thing, so I had to learn. Just so I could keep an eye out for it. Evelyn, get close. If I can get it open, it won’t be long.”
Evelyn nodded and steered closer. Now the station dominated Sennett’s view, a giant 16 on the side.
The shuttle doors opened slowly. “Go, now,” Sennett said.
“We won’t fit in yet,” Evelyn said.
“Doesn’t matter, go anyway,” Sennett replied. “I can’t keep it open long, and I won’t get another chance. Once the system knows I’m here, it’ll kick me out for good.”
“And if we cut big old holes in the top and bottom of the ship it’s going to end really badly for us,” Evelyn said. She started for the doors. “Please keep in mind that we don’t have backup to call.”
Sennett shook her head, her eyes back on her screen. Suddenly it turned red, her typing vanishing. The words Not Authorized appeared for a minute before dumping her back on the home screen.
“Shit, go!” Sennett cried. The doors were already shutting.
“Brace!” Evelyn yelled. She accelerated the ship, pushing all of them back into their seats with the force.
Sennett hadn’t braced in time. The wind was knocked out of her, as though she’d been gut-punched. She tried to draw a breath and couldn’t. Fernie was whooping next to her, eyes wide.
The front part of the ship got through the doors before they heard a grinding sound. They went a few more feet, that horrible screeching sound filling Sennett’s ears.
Evelyn pushed the throttle forward, and the ship crashed forward with a lunge. They fell down. No more than a few feet, but enough to rattle Sennett as the door slammed shut. With the back half of their ship on the other side.
“Air masks, life support’s failing right now,” Evelyn said. A mask and tank of air fell into Sennett’s lap. She put it over her mouth and nose just as the sound of all of the oxygen in the cabin was sucked out of the hole in the back.
For a moment everyone was too shocked by the close call to speak. They only sat, looking forward, waiting to see if something worse would happen.
“Couldn’t have held that for another second or two, Hero Girl?” Evelyn asked.
“I did tell you that was going to be a temporary thing,” Sennett snapped, “If you weren’t so damned insistent on being right all the time, maybe you’d have moved faster.”
“How about we get out of the ship before it blows up or something?” Fernie asked quickly.
“Fine,” Evelyn said. She disengaged the exterior door. It clattered to the ground.
Evelyn led the way out into the air locked port. The main door, intended to allow ships to come the full way into the station, was sure to not be an option. Instead, they headed for the smaller, human-sized door next to it, up to a small flight of stairs.
Evelyn halted a moment, using a control panel to flood the port with oxygen. Sennett felt her ears pop as she took off her mask. Having no idea what was going to happen to them, she wanted to save any resources they had. She tucked the mask and tank into her bag, with some assorted MRE’s, a spare suit and bottles of water. Tucked under all of that were her air rifle and a case that held her handgun, at Liam’s insistence.
In a moment the door was open. Evelyn stepped out first, Narumi just behind her.
“My God,” Evelyn whispered, freezing. Fernie nearly ran into her.
“What’s going on?” Wesley asked.
“You know how we thought this might be bad?” Evelyn asked.
“Yeah,” he said. She was moving again, making way for everyone to come out into the station.
“It’s worse,” she said.
Sennett stepped out and looked around.
The floor was littered with bodies. Bloody and broken, men, women, and children tossed around like so many broken dolls. Some were riddled with burned holes, but most looked like they had simply been ripped apart.
It looked just like Level One on S86 when the dogs had come.
Sennett turned away, the all too familiar smell of blood her nose. She was trying not to be sick, not then. Not when Fernie had burst into tears and Lee was already puking. She looked at Evelyn and Narumi. They both looked so stiff, so brittle as they surveyed the area, that they might have shattered if someone had dared touch them.
“This is a nightmare,” Wesley said, looking towards a frozen yogurt stand. A dead man was lying on it, one leg dangling by what was left of his knee. “What could have done this?”
“There are lots of weapons that could have caused this level of damage,” Narumi said, almost automatically.
“No, I mean what creature could have been capable of doing it?” he asked.
“Come on,” Sennett said. She started forward, taking care not to step on anyone.
They neared the communications building, the front door smeared with blood. A small group of people was inside. They spotted Sennett and the rest of the team and headed through the door. Sennett looked at them. “Hey,” she said, looking for Evelyn. She looked back, having just a second to notice that the people were covered in painful looking pockmarks before they ran for them. Some of them were brandishing weapons, pistols or axes. A few even carried bats or crowbars.
Sennett pulled her icer, aiming. “Stop, police,” she said out of habit. “We’re from the IHP, we’re here to help.”
They didn’t stop but instead picked up their pace. The IHP agents pulled their weapons as well.
“Stand down or we will fire!” Evelyn called.
If the pockmarked ones heard her at all, they didn’t acknowledge that they had. True to her word, the agents and Sennett started firing.
They fired quickly, aiming again and again. One woman got close enough to grab Narumi’s arm while she fired on another. Sennett took a shot, immobilizing her. A man swung a baseball bat at Sennett. She ducked, just as Fernie fired and hit him.
“What’s the matter with these people?” Wesley gasped, firing.
“It’s like they’re zombies,” Fernie said. She shot the last of them, a woman who looked to be at least in her sixties.
“Son of a bitch,” Sennett said, looking around at the frozen civilians. “Guess we know what’s going on now.”
“I’d say so, yeah,” Evelyn said. She had a lost look on her face.
“What do we do?” Lee asked. “We can’t leave, the ship’s down for good.”
Sennett and the others turned to look toward Evelyn. They waited, they were soldiers. She was their commanding officer, and they would wait for her to give them orders. But it didn’t seem as though she had any to give.
Copyright © 2018 by Nicole C. Luttrell
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