Short Story The Station On The Edge

So here is  a story that is about to be placed into the trunk. It was a semi-finalist in the Writers Of The Future contest, but has been unable to find a paying home. Please enjoy it and others of mine in the trunk.

The Station On The Edge


Robert Mitchell Evans

“We’re going to die!” Peymon’s voice cracked as he trembled in his seat. I can’t say I blamed him. Things didn’t look at all good right then, and they grew steadily worse. Paymon was a small man with a thin frame, nearly nonexistent chin and a enough nose for three men. His short black hair was as unsettled as Paymon himself.

“Shut up or I’ll eject you right now!” An empty threat; the police cruisers shooting at us held my attention, not his bloody whining.

“Can we make the jump?” Carol was cool, either from manipulated genes or a natural ice-queen personality. I couldn’t tell which. Carol was much more to my liking. she was tall with long rich blond hair, more than ample curves, and blue eyes that color I’ve heard Earth’s sky used to be.

“Maybe.” Hell of a time to start being honest with her. “This junk pile’s ready to be scrapped and those cruisers are looking to do the job.” Here we were about to be turned into ballistic junk, and I was trying to impress her with macho humor.

“Ten light-seconds to the jump.” Gwillym’s voice box buzzed at me. Gwillym’s exoskeleton was a molted green in coloration with patches of reds and browns scattered here and there. He reminded me of a praying mantis, but with four reasonably useful arms instead of the silly praying ones the real insects have. Why the hell a talking insect would choose a Welsh name I would never understand, but he was a decent copilot and totally without a moral compass.

“Flare the engines.” That would cost us acceleration, but the radiation wash from the spill-over might hide us long enough to make the jump. It must have worked because G-beams didn’t shatter the hull.

Gwillym reached up and started charging the jump capacitors. “Twenty seconds.”

“Tranqs!” Peymon damn near burst my eardrums. “We haven’t had our tranqs!”

“Reach down and see if you’ve got a pair, cause we’re jumping.” What the hell did she see in him anyway?

Like she had read my mind, Carol looked over to me. Our eyes met and for an instant we had a moment of silent communication. If I hurt Peymon, she’d kill me, slowly.

“Sorry Peymon.” I mumbled, “We ain’t got a choice.” Right then Gwillym punched the jump switch and we shot out of normal space and into madness.

It would be a lot easier if we had just blacked out during a jump, but the universe ain’t that kind. My stomach churned as the bulkheads of the bridge twisted and flowed like quicksilver. Perspective ceased to exist. It was impossible to judge the distance to anything. Everything shifted and melted together.

That included people. I strangled a scream as Peymon’s features traded places with Carol’s. Somewhere in the distance I could hear music. Loud, discordant, and a part of me, a music of elemental truth.

The air turned electric and coursed with power. Throughout this I felt like a bug on a scanner, pinned and helpless while ancient awarenesses watched. After that I passed out.

“Snap out of it.” Carol didn’t slap me around, that was too crude for her style. Her voice carried all the menace needed to focus my attention. I looked into her blue eyes I saw cool calculations at work. Asset or liability, which was I?

“I’m okay Carol.” I swung my seat back upright. The gravity was off. I gagged, but kept it down, or inside, or whatever. “How’s Peymon?” At least I could score some points acting like I cared about the guy.

“Catatonic.” An undercurrent of unimaginable violence hid in that word.

“Give him time, he’ll pull out of it.” I turned my attention to Gwillym. How the hell can you tell if a bug has gone catatonic?

“Let’s not do that anymore.” Gwillym said softly. I’m pretty sure the voice box was undamaged. So he must have been shaken up. A first as far as I knew.

“Deal.” I unstrapped, trying to look in control as I got my free-fall reflexes back. “I’m going to see why we don’t have any gravity. You find out where we are Gwillym.” That had been a bad jump, I hated to think the condition our engines and power plant might be in.

“What about me?” Carol floated in the cramped cabin, her eyes darting between Peymon and me.

“Take care of Peymon, of course. I’ll be back with the med-kit.” Another lie; my med-kit consisted of dirty bandages and a bottle of gin. I hoped Peymon would come out of it before I was back. I didn’t give her another chance to say anything as I undid the hatch and hurried out of the cockpit.

Craters! The plant’s power-taps were scragged, all three of them were burnt and splintered. Instead of drilling through the branes into higher dimensions for limitless free power these taps were useless for anything beyond being a club.

We were in a bad fix, better to be de-orbiting than stuck in the middle of nowhere without enough power to light a glow panel. My luck hadn’t changed a bit. There were billions of the power sticks in the galaxy sucking up juice for free, but with mine trashed I might as well burn combustibles. I kicked my way out of the engine compartment, hoping the Gwillym was having better luck than me.

Gwillym rotated his blue-green head all the way around as I entered the cockpit. “How are the engines?”

“Engines are fine; power plant is history. The taps are shot, and we ain’t fixing ’em.” He fixed his eyes on me, all three of them, in that scary looking-right-through-you way he has. Gwillym’s a good partner, but damn I wish he were a little more human.

“We’re screwed then.” Peymon’s mind might have recovered while I was back aft, but his attitude hadn’t. I almost said something, but I knew that Carol didn’t want to hear it. Worse yet, he was right, we were screwed. It was going to be a slow, unpleasant death.

“We’ll have to get new power taps then.” Gwillym rotated his head back towards what passed for sensors on my boat. “There does seem to be a little hope.”

“What’s out there?” Carol floated over to Gwillym, trying to read the instruments over his shoulder. It was a waste of time, Gwillym kept the output in the infrared. For Gwillym, secrets were power and he always hoarded power. Of course, I had I.R. specs of my own. I don’t like secrets on my ship.

“I know where we are. There’s a powered station near by.” Gwillym tapped the controls and a holomap appeared in the cockpit. Carol had to move as the orbit of the station moved through her own lovely orbs.

“This system doesn’t even have a name, just a catalog entry, but it looks like someone built a station here during the great expansion.” Gwillym loved to lecture. I think he secretly thought of all humans as retarded apes. “That means it’s been out here for over five hundred standard years.”

“We should leave it alone!” Peymon shouted. “They don’t want us there!”

I turned to Carol, not wanting to look at Peymon, he was really making me want to space him.

“He’s been paranoid since he started talking.”

“Nothing new for him.” I always had more sarcasm than brain cells. Carol cuffed me with her left hand, hard enough to bounce me off a control panel. She was a pro at free-fall fighting, checking her own recoil and spin easily.

“Stop it.” Gwillym’s voice box was capable of shouting, but he rarely did. If you really knew him, then you’d know to be scared when he wasn’t yelling. “I will not have my life endangered by your stupid hormonal wars.”

“I have some pheromone dust if you want.” I never know when to leave something alone. Gwillym’s mandibles clicked in agitation. He hated that I had some his horny dust. I’ve never used it on him, but like I said he didn’t have a moral compass and I had to maintain who was in charge on my ship. I held up one hand in a sign of truce and his mouth went still.

I started breathing again.

“We’re so far off the space lines, I doubt anyone has been to this system in hundreds of years.” Gwillym went back to his lecture, acting like nothing had happened.

“So why is this station still powered? Why is it still here?” Carol focused back to the situation at hand; getting out of here alive.

“Humans have abandoned thousands of stations in this arm of the galaxy. Typically wasteful if you ask me.”

“No one asked you.” But, what could you expect from a race that didn’t throw anything away? Hell, they even ate their dead. Gwillym ignored me and went on with his lecture.

“Left on automatics, some stations could go on functioning for a thousand years. The taps would give them an endless supply of power. Basic power-taps have hardly changed since they were developed. Any functioning ones could be adapted to our engines.”

“We’re wasting power talking about it.” I pushed past Gwillym and strapped myself back down into the pilot’s seat. It felt good to take charge. I bet it looked good too.

“We have enough power stored to match orbits.” Gwillym offered as he strapped himself in next to me. “But we don’t have a lot to waste.”

“Do I waste anything?” I pushed the engines and pumped three gees through the old bird. We were pinned in our couches, but it was fun to fly feeling the acceleration. Slow as walking, but fun.

It took us over a day to get there. It would have taken a lot longer, but I dumped our batteries at the end, powered up our gravity field, and decelerated at better than fifty gees. That’ll stop you fast. Of course Gwillym complained, but either we were going to get the power taps, and it wouldn’t matter, or we’d be stuck there. That stored power was like cash, damn useless unless you spent it.

All the way there Carol babied Peymon. What in this wide galaxy did she see in him? He didn’t get much better on the trip in, but he didn’t get much worse either. He was jump crazy. At least it didn’t look like he was going to be the violent kind, I hoped.

“What a pile of junk!” The station, and calling it that was generous, had been assembled from all sorts of things. Fuel containers, hull sections, cargo modules, and none had been affixed on the same axis as any other section. The whole damn structure had to be in free-fall. That just really made my day.

“Can you tell where the power plant is?” Carol unstrapped and floated over to Gwillym.

“Looks to be in the center of mass,” Gwillym answered. “We can soft dock to one of the cargo modules and work our way in.”

“They don’t want us here. We’re not invited.” Peymon tried to curl up into a ball, but the straps of his seat held him fast.

“Too bad,” I growled as I slid the ship along side one of the modules. I was in a lousy mood, and I was prayed that someone would be home to give me a hard time. I had my pistol, beyond that and a woman what more did a man need?

“Where are your suits?” Carol unstrapped and started to head aft.

“I’ll let you know when I get some.” I killed our relative velocity and extended the gangplank.

“You don’t have any pressure suits? None?” For the first time since we met Carol didn’t act like she had all the answers. I liked that.

“You didn’t ask before you hired me to get you out of there.” The lights switched to green. We had a solid lock. “But I might buy some with what you’re paying me.” I floated out of my seat and kicked off the control panel, shooting past her and through the hatch. I guess she couldn’t be the ice-queen all the freaking time.

I grabbed an extra pistol, a few tools, and opened up the airlock. On the other side, the inflated tube of the gangplank extended away to the side of the station. I centered myself in the airlock and kicked myself across to the far end. I flipped halfway across, landing softly next to the hatch.

I looked back and saw the others following close behind. Gwillym, of course, handled himself well in free fall. Carol would have, but she was having trouble with Peymon. They bounced and ricocheted the whole length of the tube.

“It would be better to leave him.” Gwillym beat me to the punch, and mostly likely saved me from a punch. “He will be a hindrance to us.”

“I’m not leaving Peymon.” I couldn’t tell who she had really aimed the reply at, Gwillym or me.

“He’s your concern.” Gwillym spun himself around and fixed his attention on the hatch. I doubt she had any idea just how much Gwillym meant that. From here on out Gwillym wouldn’t twitch a spine to help.

“I can take care of myself!” Peymon tried to cross his arms in a sulk, but only succeeded in setting himself slowly spinning.

“Sure you can.” I said, then turned to help Gwillym with the hatch while Carol steadied her sock puppet.

“It’s vacuum welded.” I said, causing Gwillym to rotate his head about three quarters of the way around to give me a creepy bug look.

“And they kicked you out of the Merchant Academy.” The voice box did a fair job of turning his natural squeaks and squawks into sarcasm, smart little machine. “Fortunately for you, I have thought ahead.” He spun his head back towards the hatch while taking a miniature cutter from his pack. After a few minutes he had the hatch completely cut away, and we pulled it out.

The worst stench ever came rushing out of that airlock. It was every incubator, gym room, and cesspool ever made rolled into one vast, vomitus cloud.

I heaved and spewed my stomach’s contents into the airlock and gangplank. It would have been embarrassing, except Carol and Peymon were adding equally to the floating cloud of filth.

“The air is likely to be unpleasant, but according to my scans not unhealthy.” Gwillym had a riotous sense of humor. It would get him shot someday, by me.

Gwillym didn’t wait for us poor humans to get control over our stomachs, but proceeded straight away into the station itself. I wiped my mouth on my sleeve and followed him in.

It wasn’t any better inside. As I passed through the inner hatch, Gwillym slapped a patch on my chest. He did the same for Carol and Peymon.

“Dosimeters,” He explained. “The station’s not in the protective influence of a magnetic field, so by now the hull has become a gamma emitter.”

My skin crawled. Yeah I was an experience spacer, but the thought of gamma rays shooting their way through me, knocking my genes out of place, gave me the creeps like a fink ratting to system security.

Twitched by the radiation, Carol said, “Let’s hurry. The faster we do this the better.”

Peymon held a finger to his lips and tried to making a hushing sound, but mostly blew spittle into the air. “They can hear us.”

“There’s no one here,” I snapped. I kicked off the bulkhead forcing them to follow my lead. The power-plant was at the center of mass, so it should have been simple to keep going deeper into the station until we got to the center. It wasn’t.

I suppose for a five hundred year old station the old girl was looking good, but I could never be in a frame of mind where something like that looked good. Oh, it held pressure, and as far as our luck went that was a good thing. Beyond the stench there were lots of problems with the station.

First off was the mold and fungus, which was everywhere. Man flung himself into space, and he took his slime with him. My ship wasn’t the cleanest, but I did keep the stuff at bay. Here no one had been doing anything so the bulkheads were green, brown, blue, and colors I didn’t even want to think about. The slime had grown over everything. Some of it had even started eating at the metal of the station. I almost gagged again thinking about what sort of crap I was inhaling. I couldn’t help but to touch the stuff. Even through my gloves it was revolting. I’d reach a bulkhead, cushion my landing with my feet, reach to steady myself, and my hand would slip through centimeters of goo.

That was when I could see the walls. The glow panels had failed centuries ago. Most of the lights were out. It was a testament to the engineers’ self-repair designs that anything worked.

I stopped at an intersect of passageways, wiping my hands on my jumper, when the others caught up with me.

“We should sell time shares in this place, Gwillym.”

“Not even you are that good of a salesman.” Gwillym pointed his light down one of the passages. The walls glistened and shimmered with slime. I hated the way that passageway looked. It was like something alive, a throat wet and hungry.

“You wound me. And I trust you.”

“You don’t trust anyone.” Peymon’s voice had gotten softer, and a tad deeper.

“That’s the first thing you’ve said that I’ve agreed with, Peymon.” I took a deep breath, and nearly threw up. I would have to find a new reflex for working up my courage. On this station, deep breathing didn’t do the trick.

At the edge of my vision a shadow slipped further into the darkness. I turned quickly, startled at the movement, and set myself tumbling. By the time I had steadied myself, it was gone.

“What’s wrong?” Gwillym’s voice calmed me, but only a bit. He twisted his head, trying to read my expression.

“Something moved over there.” I pointed off into the darkness. My heart was trying to smash its way out of my chest.

“There’s nothing here but us and fungus.” I knew I could count on Carol to be sympathetic. “You’re just panicking.” She kicked off the bulkhead and took the lead down the passageway.

I got myself positioned for the leap, my nerves fraying by the second.

“You see nothing,” Peymon said flatly. “They see everything.” He kicked off without explaining and Gwillym followed, leaving me to be ass-end-Charlie.

It wasn’t possible to shoot down an entire hallway on a single jump. We had to keep correcting with touches and kicks along the wall. Each time we did, slime would stick to our gloves and our jumpsuits. Little bits would break free to become repulsive free-floating clouds. As ass-end charlie I got to fly through everyone else’s wake. By the time we reached the far side of the fifth cargo container, I had a sheen of mildew across my face.

“An improvement,” Carol noted as I stopped myself next to her.

“Well I’m sure we could find a dark spot for some fun.”  I leaned in towards her, threatening to kiss. She moved expertly out of the way. She didn’t laugh.

“There is something in the dark,” Gwillym’s voice cut like a G-beam. “There are people on this station.”

“What are you talking about?” I pointed my light into the dark, but all I could see was the slim glowing eerily green in the darkness.

“There are heat sources moving out there, a lot of them.”

“They won’t let us take its voice.” Peymon’s stoicism seemed unshakable.

“Shut up!” Carol snapped at Peymon, then turned to Gwillym. “Are you sure? Maybe you’re seeing things, like him.” She hooked a thumb back in my direction. I was about to tell her how unlikely it was for Gwillym to lose touch with reality when they attacked.

Gwillym said they were people, but they didn’t look like people to me. Twisted and hairy, they poured out of the blackness.

The attack was fast and brutal. I kicked one in the face. I felt his face collapse. Bones shattering beneath my heel. I let the momentum carry me around until my feet were pointed back at the bulkhead, then with a massive push I shot myself away from the melee.

One of the things smashed into my side like a missile. As we tangled into a mass of flailing limbs, I tried to get a grip on each it as we smacked into the wall.

This one was human, or would have been if she hadn’t been twisted and deformed from a gene line that lived in a radioactive, zero-gee hell. Her dark, matted hair flew in my face as she desperately tried to sink her twisted teeth into my chest. I grabbed a handful of that filthy scalp and pulled back, hard, trying to peel her of me. I heard her neck snap. She went limp, except for a spasms that shook her entire body. I pushed her away and looked back to the intersection.

A light spun slowly in the air. Lazily, it threw its beam around like a lighthouse. Everyone was gone.

Fear froze my gut like a slug of liquid nitrogen. I wanted to bolt back to the ship, light off the engines and run. I couldn’t without any power-taps I’d only strand myself in cold and unfriendly space. The only power-taps in reach lay deeper inside this seriously fucked-up station. With shaking legs, I pushed off toward the intersection.

I snagged the light, and switched it off. I pulled on my I.R. specs, ready for the next fight. They were good at zero-gee, but slugs would kill them dead. With the pistol in one hand, I floated slowly forward.

It wasn’t hard following them. Carol screamed like a reentering ship. I was going to rack up quite few points rescuing her from this. I knew exactly how she could pay me back.

I followed through their garden of twisted and frightening plants. The garden gave me a chance to gain on them. The freaks didn’t stop once, they just dragged their captives along. Carol struggled, but four of the freaks handled her with an unnerving expertise. They didn’t drag Peymon, he followed willingly. I could hear Carol cussing him, then pleading, and finally begging for him to do something. It looked like the sock puppet wasn’t her favorite anymore.

Gwillym was limp, being towed like a balloon. Either they had hurt him bad, or he was playing dead. I could see that he was warm, and not cooling. That was good, but the specs couldn’t give me enough detail to tell if he was still armed. I wouldn’t have bet on it. If he had a gun the freaks would have been dead. I’d save Gwillyn and the rest if I got the chance, but I wasn’t going to give up the power-taps for them. That just wouldn’t be sensible.

We passed through a container ship without working a single glow panel. I had the I.R. specs, the freaks didn’t. That could work in my favor. No matter how freaky they were, their eyes were still like mine. Water based eyes can’t see I.R.

We emerged into a cavernous space with their power plant looming in the center. Disused catwalks and scaffold lined the edges of the compartment.

Mold coated the bulkheads with a thick layer of slime. There must have been a third of a meter of the gunk on the bulkheads. Everything was coated in it. The power plant glowed brightly in the infrared, lighting up the compartment brightly for me. Freaks filled the compartment. There must have been a hundred of them.

Several of them held Carol and Gwillym tight, while Peymon kicked himself over to the power plant. One of the freaks pulled a knife. The Goddamn thing looked more like a short sword, that’s how big it was. Peymon reached out his hand, and they gave it to him.

“Get us out of here you fucking shit head!” Carol screamed at Peymon, but he wasn’t listening to her. I don’t know what he was listening to, but it was any of us anymore. Peymon held the knife up, looking closely at the blade. he said something to Carol and Gwillym, but I couldn’t hear it clearly. Then he put the knife to his own throat and sliced himself open.

Blood spurted and sprayed out of his throat. It was bright and hot in the I.R. The blood shot all over the compartment. It formed pulsing, quivering spheres. The centers glowed in my visor, like Japanese lanterns. Smaller drops of blood, sparkling like fireflies, which vanished as they cooled.

The freaks were loving it. They took Peymon by his outstretched arms and started spinning him. His blood spiraled out from him, forming an expanding galaxy of lanterns and fireflies. The freaks formed a sphere around Peymon, moaning and chanting as he bled-out.

No one had to tell me that this was the time to find a power-tap and get the hell out of there. I moved out of my hidey spot, and started looking. Centuries ago this had been an engineering space, so finding the storage wasn’t tough. I just had to pray that the freaks hadn’t turned the taps into fighting sticks or something equally useless.

They were exactly where I thought they would be. Over at the power-plant I could hear Carol screaming and cursing. She wasn’t going to slice herself open, but they wanted her blood just the same. I was going to leave right then and there, but damn it, Gwillym spotted me!

I saw his head twist, just ever so slightly, and I knew he was looking at me with all three of his eyes, waiting for me to make a move. He was waiting on me to save him, or to at least get the ship moving. I touched a deck-plate and hovered there for a moment, knowing that I was going to regret what I was about to do. Damn him! Damn me for being an even bigger fool.

I found a good position, never leaving Gwillym’s sight, and prepared to open fire on the freaks. The I.R. specs weren’t good enough for shooting. I pulled them off and let them float around my neck on their straps.

The compartment was lit with a sickly yellow-green light glowing from the power plant. I had never seen a power plant glow like that before. The sphere would normally be a dull metallic gray, but this one glowed. The light pulsed, like something breathing.

I took aim at the freak on Gwillym’s left and squeezed off a round. It screamed as its chest exploded but I didn’t pause to admire my shooting. I fired three more rounds as fast and as well placed as I could. Carol’s handlers were spooked by the firing and let her go. She kicked off the power plant itself, and jetted towards me. Gwillym had also given his captors the slip, but he was having to bounce off what should have been the floor of the compartment, before jumping towards me.

Carol was going to reach me first, but Gwillym was not going to be very far behind. I took one pistol and spun it towards Gwillym. Carol tried to snatch it as it passed her, but missed. I fired several more rounds. The freaks were starting to figure out what was going on. That kind of surprise never lasts long enough.

Gwillym kicked off a rail, and shot ahead of both Carol and me, disappearing into the darkness in the compartment beyond.

“Come on!” I yelled at Carol. I was using rounds fast, and there were more of them than I had shells.

The power plant glowed yellow-green. As I floated back towards the hatch out of the compartment the walls of the power plant rippled, like soft jelly.

Awareness and knowledge bubbled up from my subconscious as certain and as implacable as a yellow star expanding into a red giant. Truths buried and forgotten under tranquilizer induced amnesia froze my blood and filled my mind with terror. I remembered the vast and indifferent alien minds that lie across the membranes that separated universes. Limitless power and limitless intellect leaked into our space/time inimical to infinitesimal lives and pointless concerns.

In the waving metal I saw shapes take form. Not a human face, nor an alien one, but something so indescribably wrong my mind tried to refuse to see it.

I screamed, screamed like Carol had never even come close to. Not only did I see it, but it saw me! I turned and kicked off the bulkhead, barely seeing the slime that rippled and heaved itself away from the deck as I flung myself out of the compartment. Carol shouted for me to wait, to stop. Like hell!

I put on the I.R. specs and shot through the darkened compartments as fast as I could. My leg trembled with fright, throwing off my leaps. I bounced off decks and bulkheads, and at one point my light got switched on, but I didn’t care. IT didn’t need any light, I knew that!

I snatched glimpses behind me as I hurried through the pitch-black compartments. Pitiless intellect reached across branes to touched ours. The slime writhed and undulated itself free from the bulkheads of the compartment, reaching after us with long sinuous tendrils. One wrapped around my head, smothering me in slime. I could feel it pushing itself into my nose and throat, invading my body. I bent over double, putting myself into a spin. That broke me free, then I kicked off the deck and shot for the hatch out. The hatch beckoned, a lit square surrounded by void.

I burst into a lit area, the few working glow panels dazzling like sunlight. I was breathing hard and ragged. The taste of the slime was thick in my mouth.

Carol exploded out of the hatch, anger leaping from her eyes. I could tell that she had not seen it.

“What the hell ..” She started.

“Shut up!” I put the gun in her face to make sure she knew to listen to me. We floated there for a brief second, both of us breathing hard. A bubbling sound, like thick tar boiling, grew louder.

Behind us, slime and mold filled the hatch. It moved through the air as a massive, constantly erupting cloud. Carol saw that cloud, and gasped. I saw the cloud and knew it for what it was. Impossible geometries shifted in and out of the slime. An intellect as alien to me as I am to an ameba echoed in my mind. I wanted to cower and worship the thing, to placate it, to serve it. Even as I knew it cared nothing for the minute thing it had noticed. I grabbed a hold of a projection from the bulkhead and kicked Carol.

She never saw it coming. Carol flipped head over feet towards the cloud, while I kicked off and shot out of there, praying that she would slow it up enough to let me escape. Screaming Carol hit with a thick wet sound, like slapping mud. I didn’t care; let IT have her.

It must have worked, because I outran IT, and I was nearly to the airlock when I ran into Gwillym.

“Carol?” He asked, not slowing his own flight out. I shook my head. He didn’t say anything more. I passed him, my stronger legs pushing me faster in the zero-gee. I had the power-tap, and that was all that mattered.

We were one compartment short of the airlock when the freaks jumped us. I moved too fast for them, but their ambush surrounded Gwillym. Five or six of them swarmed Gwillym with more pouring out of dark spaces.

“Help!” I never heard him cry for help before. Already a dozen of the freaks bubbled over him in the middle of the compartment. I gave him the only help I could. I shot him dead.

I kicked my way out of the compartment and the frenzied freaks chased me.

I out-raced them across the pressurized gangplank, sealing the ship’s airlock behind me. Oh how great the air in ship smelled! It felt like for the first time in my life that I hadn’t smelt slime and mold on my soul. I threw the safeties, and released the gangplank.

I watched through the port as the freaks spilled kicking and twitching out into space. I then hurried to the cockpit and broke orbit.

I’ve fixed the power plant. Anytime I want I can accelerate and jump. That’s the biggest joke of all.

For centuries we’ve reached across the branes, taking power for free. Well, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. We’ve been noticed and with all the passion of a cleaning robot disinfecting a surface IT’s going to deal with us.

We’ve got those power-taps all over the galaxy, drilling holes from our space to IT’s. Like over-inflated soap bubbles the branes are stretched thin and this station isn’t the only leak.  How long before everything rips open? I don’t know, but you’ll find out soon. You’ll find out one other thing I know.

IT’s not alone.