Sennett had tried to make it appear to the others that traveling by personal transporter was something that she was comfortable and familiar with. While it was true that she’d done it, it was far from comfortable. The sudden feeling of slipping sideways through space was disorienting and always left her feeling sick to her stomach. She knew that Ki and the other doctors on S86 did this on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. How the managed to not be sick all the time baffled her.
When she came back to herself she was standing on a thick rubber pad. The room she was in was circular, with smooth white walls. The emergency lights did seem to be working here, casting a gentle glow. It appeared to be exclusively for transport arrivals. A desk sat near the door, with an emergency care kit attached to the wall behind it. Sennett set a hand to her icer, looking around a quickly as her spinning stomach would allow. She didn’t see anyone, berserkers or otherwise.
“About time something didn’t go fuckwise,” Sennett muttered. She looked down at the transporter. Now the green light was lit, and the red light had gone dark. She pressed the green button, vanishing back to the security booth.
Narumi and Wesley jumped when she appeared, on a smaller rubber mat in the corner. It was much louder here than when she’d left, only a few moments before. The berserker with a baseball bat had managed to break apart the window enough for sounds from the outside to get in. The bat was still coming, adding its hammering to the sounds of hundreds of voices screaming in rage.
“What did you find?” Narumi asked.
“It’s safe,” Sennett said, reaching for the bag she’d packed earlier. “Everyone get on the pad, and hold on to me.”
Grabbing packs as they went, Narumi, Wesley, and Ernie squeezed onto the mat, each setting a hand on Sennett’s arm or shoulder. She pushed the red button again, hearing Wesley yelp when she did so.
They arrived a moment later in the transporter room. Sennett’s stomach had had enough after three transport trips. She ran to the trash can next to the desk and threw up.
“My leg is numb,” Ernie said, as Sennett spat into the trash can.
“Look, there’s a reason we don’t all travel by personal transporter all the time,” Sennett said, getting shakily to her feet. Narumi handed her a bottle of water, which she took gratefully to wash out her mouth.
“Come on,” Ernie said, leading the way out into the hall. “The rec center would be best, I think, it’s right down at the end of this hall.”
“You can access important files from the rec room?” Wesley asked.
“Yeah,” Ernie said, “From anywhere in the building, actually.”
The hallways, like the transporter room, were lit only with emergency lighting. The floor was hard tiles, causing their boots to clank along them. The sound seemed magnified by the crypt-like silence in the rest of the place.
“How secure is this facility?” Sennett asked.
“How do you mean?” Ernie asked.
“I mean, how hard would it be for someone to break in here without authorization?”
“Oh,” Ernie said, “Well, we were more concerned with keeping things in than out. I mean, this is a company station. Everyone who lives here works here.”
“Fantastic,” Sennett muttered.
The hallway ended with a set of double doors. Someone had put a sticker on the door of a sun wearing sunglasses. Ernie pushed the door open and led them inside.
The room they entered was a combination of a living room and kitchen. Half the room was carpeted in simple brown, with several couches positioned around a wall screen. Behind the couches stood a table with four desk computers sitting on them.
“You used physical computers?” Wesley asked, leaning close to inspect one of them as though he’d never seen one before.
“This is a secure center,” Ernie said, sitting down at the table. “Virtual screens and keyboards can be accessed anywhere. The information on these computers is only available on the network within this building. That’s why I couldn’t just access it from my pad downstairs.”
She pressed a button on the side of the computer. Nothing happened. Sighing, she took a black rectangular box about the size of her hand from her bag. “Backup power source. Always a good thing to have,” she said.
While Ernie fussed with the computer, Sennett and Wesley looked around. A door in the kitchenette area led them to a room with three sets of bunk beds, made up in stiff sheets and thin blankets. Someone had left a coffee cup with red lipstick sitting on the nightstand next to one bottom bunk. On one pillow she found a rosary, white beads, and a silver cross.
Once they were sure that the rooms were clear they joined Narumi and Ernie back in the main room.
“Have you found anything?” Sennett asked.
“Yeah,” Ernie said, wide-eyed. “I found a lot, actually. Stuff about what’s going on here, and on Earth. This is going to take hours to convert to my pad.”
“How massive could it be that it would take hours?” Narumi asked.
“It’s designed to download at only 10 megabits at a time, to slow down anyone trying to steal information,” Ernie explained
“Should we head back down without it?” Sennett asked. She thought of the others, in that dark room, without food. Who knew if the berserkers had broken in?
“No,” Ernie said quickly, looking up. “This information is too important.”
“She’s right,” Narumi said, “If this can help the people on Earth we need to get every bit of it.”
She rubbed her temples. “I don’t think any of us slept well last night. Why don’t the two of you try to get some rest? One of us can switch off in a couple hours.”
“Alright,” Sennett agreed, heading to the bunk room. Wesley was just behind her.
Sennett climbed onto one of the top bunks, heaving her bag after her. A moment later Wesley’s head popped up over the other bunk. “Are you worried about burglary?” he asked.
“No,” she chuckled, laying down on top of the blanket. “I’m worried that we’re going to have to leave in a hurry, and I don’t want to be scrambling for the bag and lose it.”
“Good point,” Wesley said. He vanished for a moment, then appeared again with his bag.
She took the personal transporter out of her pocket and tapped it against her wrist pad to connect the two.
“What are you doing?” Wesley asked.
“Changing the place this will let out,” Sennett said, “It’ll take some time, but I should be able to get us back downstairs without having to wade through the berserkers outside.”
“That’s good because I don’t think we’re getting through those alive if we try,” Wesley said.
She looked up from her work sometime later to see Wesley sitting up in his bunk. He was looking at his wrist pad, eyes darting back and forth as though he was reading something.
“Why aren’t you sleeping?” Sennett asked.
“Can’t,” he said, looking up at her. “Sorry, I didn’t disturb you, did I?”
“I have a kid, you’re not going to bother me by reading quietly,” Sennett chuckled.
“How old is your kid, anyway?” Wesley asked.
“Five,” Sennett replied, smiling. “Her name’s April.”
“I bet she and her dad are worried about you,” Wesley said, “Is that who you were talking to when communications were working? That Liam guy?”
“No, Liam’s not April’s dad. He’s just a friend of mine. April’s dad died before she was born.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Wesley said, “Do you mind if I ask what happened?”
“He was shot,” Sennett said, “We were walking home one night, and someone shot him from behind.”
“Did you ever find out why?” Wesley asked.
Sennett shrugged, “Just some dumb bitch who didn’t like seeing an Earthling and a Khloe together, I guess.”
“Oh,” Wesley said. He coughed a little, looking down at his wrist pad again. “I mean, that’s awful that it happened. But I guess, you know, weren’t you kind of asking for it? I mean, humans really shouldn’t be getting together with-,”
“Khloe are humans,” Sennett said quickly, sitting up.
“Well yeah, but not like we are,” Wesley said, “They’re not the same as us. We can’t expect to keep our people around in the universe if we’re pairing off with Aliens.”
“Where were you born?” Sennett asked.
“Earth, America,” Wesley said.
“And Godfrey had me thinking you Terra’s weren’t as backward as I always thought,” Sennett muttered. She hopped from the bunk, grabbing her bag as she went.
Narumi was sitting on one of the couches in the living room, flipping through something on her wrist pad. Ernie was staring at the computer screen her chin propped up on her hands.
“Everything okay?” Narumi asked.
“Fine, everything’s fine,” Sennett said.
Narumi gave her a sidelong glance, as though she knew very well that everything was not fine. Wesley came out, giving Sennett a mistrustful look and sitting on one of the other couches.
Suddenly Ernie made a choking sound. Sennett and the others turned to her. She had a hand to her chest, her eyes wide. She looked like she was trying to take in a breath, but couldn’t.
“Ernie, what happened? Can you talk?” Narumi asked, getting to her feet.
Unable to answer, Ernie fell to the ground, her body convulsing. Narumi ran to her side, checking her mouth for anything that might be constricting her breathing. Then she laid her out on her back. “Wesley, get your med kit over here,” Narumi said, “She’s not breathing.”
“Wait,” Sennett said, “No, Narumi, get away from her.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Narumi asked. She set two hands on Ernie’s chest and began compressing. “Get the hell over here, Wesley!”
“Don’t do it, Ernie’s been infected!” Sennett cried. She grabbed Narumi by the arm, pulling her away.
“Sennett, this woman is dying!” Narumi said. She gestured to Ernie, then stopped. Pockmarks were appearing over her flesh. She had stopped convulsing. Her eyes opened, bloodshot red.
“My icer,” Narumi said, darting for the couch.
Ernie was on her feet in a second, running for Sennett.
Unarmed, Sennett darted away from her. She dove for her bag, grabbing her belt that held all three of her weapons.
Narumi had reached her icer and fired. She missed, but it was enough to get Ernie’s attention. Sennett pulled her own and fired, just as Narumi got off a second shot. Neither of them missed.
“Stupid of me to miss that,” Narumi said, holstering her icer. “She was scratching her arm all morning, but I thought it was just from sleeping on that couch.”
“How didn’t she know, though?” Sennett asked, “She’s been living with this. Didn’t she realize she was turning?”
“I think she might have,” Wesley said, looking at the table. Ernie’s wrist com was lying there. On the screen was a picture of Ginny.
“Pack that all up,” Narumi said. “No sense in waiting around anymore.”
Sennett nodded, grabbing Ernie’s wrist pad and the backup energy source to stuff into her bag.
Narumi was considering Ernie. “Maybe you shouldn’t get so close to her,” Sennett said.
“What were they messing around with on Earth?” Narumi muttered. The look of blind rage in Ernie’s face was haunting.
Narumi turned away from her. “Let’s get back downstairs,” she said.
Just then the gel gave way, freeing Ernie. She lunged forward, grabbing Narumi by the arm. Narumi hit backward with her other elbow, hitting Ernie in the face.
Sennett jumped forward to help. In her panic she didn’t pull any weapon, just shoved Ernie away. But she couldn’t push her far. Ernie planted her feet solidly and scratched Sennett across the face.
“Watch out!” Wesley called, firing an electric blast. He hit but it wasn’t enough to stop Ernie. She growled and lunged for him.
Narumi tackled her, forcing her to the ground. “Icer!” she yelled.
Sennett pulled her weapon and fired. It hit Ernie but again melted away almost imminently.
Ernie sank her teeth into Narumi’s arm. Narumi screamed but didn’t loosen her grip. Sennett, tired of playing around, pulled her gun.
Finally, Ernie overpowered her. She shoved Narumi off and got on top of her. Sennett fired, landing a bullet in her side. Ernie gave a guttural scream, falling to the ground. Narumi rose, but Ernie was up a moment later. Narumi shoved her into the bunk room and shut the door.
“Help me get a couch,” Sennett said. She and Wesley shoved one of the large couches in front of the door, trapping Ernie in.
“Come on, I have the transporter reset to take us downstairs,” Sennett said.
“Good,” Narumi said, “Get down there, keep everyone safe.”
Sennett froze. “You sound like you’re not coming.”
Narumi nodded her head towards her shoulder. “That’s because I’m not. Not if I’m going to turn into a berserker.”
“We aren’t leaving you up here alone,” Sennett said.
“Yeah you are,” Narumi said, nodding. “Get that information down to those scientists, start looking through it. Because I was watching Ernie while she was going through it and you know what I saw?”
She smiled, and said, “There’s a cure. For us, and for Earth. They might have killed the station, but the people here did their job first.”
Copyright © 2018 by Nicole C. Luttrell
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.