Author : M. A. Goldin
Elise had been bellowing at the comms for two minutes. Where the hell was he?
Keeper McDermott scrambled into the room and fell into a chair before the console. He wore worn clothes and a week’s whiskers. “Sorry, I was just tinkering with the electrical shielding in my bedroom.”
She glanced at the readings on her screen. “Keeper McDermott.”
“You were making it worse.”
“Really? You don’t say.”
“Since you kept me waiting, I’ve been through your systems.” She frowned. “Beacon’s fine, so I don’t have to get a repair team out there right away, but you’ve got an awful lot of screwy in there.”
“Wait, Boss –“
“Shut it. You’ve got unauthorized electronic devices wired all over the place.” She made a face. “Audio files called ‘creepy’ and ‘moaning’.”
“They draw zero power.”
“You’ve got abnormally high electric fields in most of the living quarters and the repair shop.”
He fidgeted. “They’re barely above background, really.”
“You’ve got a subroutine in the air processing system that’s intentionally causing random backups in your ventilation.”
“I like breezes.” Behind him, a door slammed violently shut.
“Uh huh. And now I see there’s… thinning in the exterior insulation? Re-directed heat ducts? Are you crazy?”
“It’s just a couple of cold spots, no big deal.”
“Cold spots! What the hell are you doing to my Beacon?”
“Nothing! Don’t you get it?”
She slumped back in her chair and crossed her arms over her chest. “Clearly, no. Explain.”
“Please, don’t send a repair team.” He ran his face through his hands. “I’m fine. The station’s fine, I just –“ he sat there, staring at the console without really seeing.
“The weird feelings, the slamming doors, the moaning, the cold spots.” He looked up at her, his eyes pleading. “It’s better than the silence. Better a Beacon with ghosts than alone on a dead rock.”
Elise chewed her lip. Let him wait a little. “Had to send a crew out to Beacon 113 last month. New lightkeeper.”
McDermott looked confused. “Yeah?”
“The old Keeper wasn’t dead, so it never tripped the bio sensors here. Only reason we knew something was off was he had the oxygen cranked way, way up. Son of a bitch had drilled a hole in his skull. Big one. With that plus the oxy, he was blissed out of his mind when they got there. Walked out an airlock when nobody was looking.”
“So now I’ve got an emergency boat headed out there with a new Keeper. You got any idea what that costs? Company’s probably going to take it out of his life insurance.” She glared at McDermott. “Am I going to have to do that twice in one month, Keeper?”
She stared at him through the screen, trying to see the man through bad lighting and a billion miles of interference. The Beacon would run fine, if need be; would he?
“I suppose ghosts are better than tripping balls till your Beacon explodes.”
McDermott blushed and tugged at a piece of hair behind his ear. “Yeah.”
“You get any other ghosts out there, ones you didn’t make, you tell me. Let me send your replacement on a slow boat.”
He smiled, nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”
“San Martin out.”
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