Author: Kristina T. Saccone

It might have seemed like a lot of trouble to hide his LP’s in an airlock. Darren thought it was a necessary sacrifice to keep the vinyl untouched after the time Devok borrowed Pearl Jam’s Ten without asking and returned it with a scratch. There weren’t a lot of places to stash the records on a space station where grunts got a communal bunk and no locker, but he had his secret spots. The real trouble came when he needed to retrieve the collection for his radio show.

Tonight, for example, Darren had carefully curated a playlist on the back of a used envelope. Over dinner, he surreptitiously showed it to a few friends. When Indira asked to see it, he felt the warmth radiating off her body next to him. She leaned over and slid a finger down the list, whispering the titles. In between each name, her lips made a small smack that sent shivers up his spine. She said she would listen during her late shift in the botany lab. With that, Darren knew it was imperative to play every last tune.

This was Darren’s specialty. Late 20th century rock had been digitized and mass distributed, but vinyl was rare and its analog sound: priceless. His lackluster day job maintaining the station’s communications allowed him this small luxury, and it was his passion project. The Stellars didn’t exactly condone the show, but so far they hadn’t stopped him either.

He stuffed the setlist into his back pocket and headed down the hall to Hatch Theta, making a quick stop at his bunk to hack into the rotation update for a fresh access key. Darren repeated the code over and over in his head. It thrummed like a song while he stepped down the last stretch of corridor. Then, he saw the red paper taped over the door’s security pad – and nearly lost the number sequence entirely.

“Shit,” Darren ripped the page off the wall, which read “Cease and Desist” at the top in fresh type. This had better not be another of Devok’s pranks. Darren held it up to the light, looking for the official Stellar seal. There was the golden glint, gracefully woven between the page fibers.

The station’s low, brown noise buzzed as he weighed his options. Was this night’s show worth the risk of a reprimand, maybe the brig, or worst of all, losing the show altogether? Then he thought of Indira with her headphones on, huddled over her research and listening to Lithium, and her cyan, acrylic nails tucking a strand of crimson hair behind an open-lobed ear.

Darren crumpled the warning in his left hand and tossed it aside. With his right, he entered the code and hit the button to open the airlock. The moment the lock gave way, an alarm set off. “In for a penny,” he said to himself. When the door opened, he palmed the second grey panel to the left. His precious vinyl lay stacked there, and Darren puffed in relief that they hadn’t found his exact hiding spot.

He pulled the collection to his chest, turned, and walked as fast as he could back to his bunk, where the mic and transmitter were stashed under his bed. He mentally calculated how long it would take to get there and queue song number one from the playlist: Paranoid Android. His heart raced to the opening beats and the thought of Indira, soaking in his soundwaves and surrounded by her flora.