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I sit back in my comfortable chair in Network and Engineering Ring 1, take a bite out of my tasty chocolate bar, and glance at the computer showing my crew hard at work. Denish lifts some kind of heavily modified piece of construction equipment in his bulky, uncomfortable space suit gloves, grunting with effort as he pushes it into place. The doctor presses its body weight against the frame of the door, bracing for vibration.

I take another bite out of my chocolate. For something so out of date, it’s pretty tasty.

My view of the situation is pretty limited, since all I have to go on are the space suit cameras. Each suit has a camera in the helmet itself and one on the right wrist which, unless somebody’s being very careful to point it at what they want you to see, is surprisingly useless. The audio is a lot more useful.

“Ready, Friend?” Denish asks.


There is a slight hum as the drill is turned on. I’m surprised; I’d expected the thing to be incredibly loud. After a moment I realise it probably is incredibly loud, it’s just being used in a vacuum. I can’t hear the drill at all; that hum is probably the vibration of the doctor’s helmet, pressed up against the door.

I can see where Denish is drilling through his wrist cam, but the spots he chooses look completely random to me. He leverages his considerable body weight to make four holes in the metal panel around the airlock over the course of about fifteen minutes, then picks up a small cutting tool I don’t recognise and simply peels the metal away, revealing a network of metal rods that I don’t know the purpose of. Denish does, apparently, because he cuts through a few of them, bashes a couple more out of place with a large hammer, and then uses a crowbar and the doctor’s assistance to simply wrench the airlock door free. Where did he learn this? He was clearly some kind of engineer in the past; did he used to build these doors? Or design them, maybe? I haven’t poked into the pasts of any of my crew; I don’t want to encourage them to ask about mine.

“Airlock is small,” he grunts to the doctor. “I do this one alone.”

“Can you do it without help?”

“Yes. Is harder from inside and without bracing. Drill might jump. But, I can do. Will take much longer to do safe.”

“Take all the time you need,” I tell him through the radio. “We can’t afford for you to get injured in there.”

“Yes, captain.”

Removing the second door does take longer, and seems to be a more complicated process. The airlock isn’t large (it’s just barely long enough to fit a stretcher and patient), and between Denish’s massive body and his massive drill, there’s not a lot of room for maneuvring. Eventually, though, he gets to the rods he needs, cuts a couple, and uses a broken rod to shove a whole one out of place.

And then, quite suddenly, everything goes to shit.

I can’t see anything through Denish’s cameras; the views shake and jolt as something violently slams into him. But through the doctor’s camera, I see him get thrown out of the airlock and slide some distance along the floor. Somewhat hazy air is pouring from the now-breached airlock; the doctor is smart enough not to walk straight through the torrent but to instead back up a few metres, where the push isn’t particularly strong, and move around it to check on Denish.

“Denish, are you okay?”

“Yes. Just startled me.”

“Did you hit your head?”

“No. Helmet caught it. Bruised shoulder, I think. Arm still moves. What happen?”

“It looks,” I say, “like Chronostasis Ring 1 wasn’t depressurised after all.”

Denish snorts. “How not? I thought ring was breached.”

“No idea, but I guess we’ll find out soon. Denish, do you need medical attention? You two should come back into the pressurised part of the ship, the doctor can look you over, and tomorrow we can continue – ”

“Is fine. Little tap. I not hurt.”

“You’re certain? You’re going to need to lift patients onto the stretchers in there. You’ll need both arms.”

“Yes, am fine. Take many knocks before.”

“From cutting into a pressurised vessel?” Tinera asked. “Denish, people die doing that. They die a lot.”

“And I have not died once! Good luck! Serious though, am not hurt more than bruises.”

“Well… okay,” I say. “Proceed if you like. But doctor, Denish, I want your opinions. If Chronostasis Ring 1 wasn’t breached, should I start repressurising the rings? That air didn’t look healthy to breathe, but surely rousing patients in one atmosphere with air tanks is easier than doing it in the pressure tents the doctor was going to set up, right?”

“That would be far easier,” the doctor agrees. “By many orders of magnitude. One atmosphere of pressure would solve most of the problems in here.”

“Right, repressurising now. It’ll take time, though. Hey, this is safe to do with your guys in there, right?”

“Of course,” Denish says. “Is same as pressurising or depressurising airlock with person inside. Ring is just big airlock.”

That makes sense. I tell the computer to start repressurising the ring.

“Am proceeding to chronostasis ring now,” Denish reports. “Doctor, is your show.”

“Right.” The doctor hands Denish a couple of large air tanks. “We can’t open any pods until the room’s repressurised, but we can set up.” It turns to the tightly folded emergency pressure tents it had brought in, then away, and heads on into Chronostasis Ring 1.

Inside, the doctor hesitates, breath hitching. Denish gives a little whine. Through the cameras, I see what he sees, and feel like giving a little whine myself. It’s… not pretty.

“Denish,” Tinera says over the comms, “hold it together. You do not want to throw up inside a space suit, hear me? You don’t want to be sick in that helmet, it will feel totally gross.”

“Know that from experience, do you?” Adin asks.

“I’ve had more opportunities for it than you, landcrab,” Tinera shoots back.

“Hey,” the doctor says gently. “Hey, Denish. Look over here. Let’s put those tanks down, yeah? And maybe sit down? Yeah. You don’t have to look. When we get to work, we can start at the other end of the ring. Why don’t you wait here for your friend for a bit?”

Denish, I realise, may not have seen dead bodies before. “Denish, you can turn off your comms for a bit if you feel like it. The doctor will signal when it’s time. Doctor, I need a better look. Are you willing to help?”

“Yes,” the doctor says, turning back to the scene in the ring.

The whole thing had probably looked a lot less gory before the door was breached and the room rapidly depressurised. The… pieces… had probably remained in their general location. But now…

Row upon row of chronostasis pods sit open, their status panels flashing red. Blue chronostasis fluid is pooled around them and, in those nearest the breached airlock, streaked violently across the floor towards said airlock. Given how long it must have been here, I’m surprised that any of it is still liquid. It’s littered with clots of old, black blood. How do I know it’s blood? Well, it matches that on the disembodied heads.

Yeah. The heads. Three of them have rolled across the floor toward the breached airlock. They’re far from intact; something’s been used to hack into the tops of the skulls and then roughly sever them from their bodies.

“This might not be safe,” I say. “Consider retreat.”

“Negative. These are very old.” After just a touch of hesitation, the doctor leans down to inspect one more closely. “Look; the eyes are gone. Tongue is… more intact than would be expected, probably due to a lack of predators.” It turns the head over and brushes aside matted hair, which pulls free at the slightest tug, to expose the cranial port for the cerebral stimulator.

The port is missing.

“That’s… weird,” I comment.

“Not really. The skull underwent severe trauma, look how cracked up it is. It’s not unusual that the port would come free. Should I look at the breached pods?”

“One moment,” I say. “Denish, are you on comms?”

“He’s got them off,” the doctor says. “Should I signal – ?”

“No, off is fine. Tinera, Adin, are you there?”

A sudden uptick in breathing sounds suggests that they’re unmuting their mics. “Jesus Christ,” Tinera gasps. “Jesus fucking Christ deepthroating an unbalanced thruster, what the fuck happened in there?”

I ignore the unfamiliar curse; probably some obscure Lunari thing. “We’re going to find out. Thoughts?”

“Tiny’s just watered your beans in Greenhouse 1,” Adin chimes in. “You were right about your tendency to throw up after all.”

“Oh like you didn’t shriek like you were ready to piss yourself the instant we saw this. You’re lucky I muted your mic in time or you would’ve deafened the whole crew.”

“Any useful thoughts?” I clarify.

“Only that they should get the fuck out of there,” Tinera says. “This ship gets more horror show every day.”

“Up to you, doctor,” I say.

The doctor approaches one of the open pods and looks inside.

The inside looks just how I expect. There’s a body in there. It lies in a gloopy mass of old, clotted blood floating on a thin layer of chronostasis fluid that looks far, far thicker than the near-water I’m used to seeing. The body is headless. Well, it has a head in that the head is right there in the pod, but it’s very definitely detached. Like the ones on the floor, it’s been hacked through the middle and removed from the body. The rest of the body is somewhat rotten, but looks mostly intact except for a couple of large wounds around the shoulders. Apparently, the beheader didn’t have great aim.

“Very little decay, considering,” the doctor says thoughtfully.

“Considering what?” Tinera asks. “That person is liquefying under the skin.”

“Considering,” the doctor says, “that this ring has been sealed for about two and a half years.”

We’re all silent for a bit.

“You should get out of there,” Tinera says.

“If you’re willing to continue, doctor, can I see where the pod is leaking?”

“Yes, captain.” The doctor circles around the chronostasis pod and crouches down to point the suit’s wrist camera at one corner, near the floor. A metal panel on the side has been peeled away, revealing a bunch of tubing that’s been roughly cut. The crumbly blue remains of long-dry chronostasis fluid coat the tubes.

“What does this mean?” I ask.

“Um,” Adin cuts in. “If I had to guess, I’d say that the tubes were cut to leak chronostasis fluid from the chamber and trigger an emergency revival. That would’ve opened the chronostasis pod and allowed the attacker to, um. Behead them. I think we can… based on what we do know, we can probably guess who that was.”

I nod, although I know that no one can see me. “This place was sealed when Captain Reimann locked a bunch of computer systems and started destroying things with an axe. The wounds we’ve seen look like axe wounds to me.”

“Not very deep, for an axe,” Tinera remarks. “The missed strikes on the shoulders and stuff, I mean.”

“He probably had one arm at the time,” the doctor reminds her. “And, depending on how well he tourniqueted the wound, may have been suffering from blood loss. How pressurised is the room?”

I check. “We’re at about fifteen per cent.”

“Plenty of time, then.” The doctor stands up and inspects the next chronostasis pod. And then the next.

They’re all essentially the same. Somebody (Reimann) went through, pod by pod, severing the fluid tubes to trigger them to open, and removing and cutting open the heads of the occupants.

“How… how many are there?” Adin breathes.

“121 at the most,” I say. “Because we know there were 879 live colonists in there when I woke up. He must have been restrained after that and taken to the medbay by – ”

“No,” the doctor cuts in. “He wasn’t.” It points its wrist camera at something else; a figure slumped over an intact chronostasis pod.

They’re very definitely dead, but in remarkably good condition. A small fire axe lies on the floor next to their dangling left hand, and their right arm is missing, severed slightly above the elbow and clumsily tourniqueted.

Captain Reimann.

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One thought on “020: MASSACRE

  1. Oh…. Oh… Holy fuck. I’m… Not quite sure what I expected. But… It wasn’t this. Things make sense now, I guess, but still. Oh god. That’s… Well, it definitely brings some questions to the table. And some answers. Definitely not the type of massacre I’d been expecting, but I guess the chapter title didn’t lie. I mean, at least he didn’t get to everyone? Hopefully the plan still goes well? Guess we’ll have to find out.

    Liked by 1 person

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