Author: David C. Nutt
No matter where you go in the universe, the rules stay the same. Not just the rocket stuff. The old, old, rules.
I’m working construction on a standard habitat cylinder around the latest chain of habitats orbiting Venus. Dull as dull can be, but closer to home than belter work so the family likes it. Me? Belter work pays better, and one can only take so much family.
I’m running a bigger than normal size crew- twenty as opposed to the usual dozen or so. It’s a big job but stupid simple work. We got sun shield panels in sync so we work fast but not too fast and pick up a decent bonus for finishing ahead of schedule. Stuey is my second. I count crew off the lift and on the lift. Stuey does the same.
Stuey clicks in on the private link. “Got weird numbers Mikey. Plus one.”
“Me too. Plus one. OK double check.”
We do it again. Plus one. We scan all chip sets. Get worse results there. Numbers won’t lock in at all. By now we’re startin’ to burn bonus money.
“OK, line up and pile into the cage.” I say it into the open link. I count twenty-one into the lift cage. I lock us in. Stuey goes to call the lift. I stop him. I click on the shield crew, command link. “ Anna Kulak you damn Romanian, sing out.”
“Mikey Zola you damn Romanian, what up?”
I sighed in relief. Anna was my cousin. It would make things simpler. “Got a hitchhiker.”
There was a pause. “No shit Mikey! For real?”
“For real. Roll the shield back. Give me 10% shadow.” The shield rolls back. Sunlight hits the door. Three or four move back. One all the way back.
“OK Stuey. Take us down.” The lift goes down. I count. I still get twenty-one.
“Locked-in” Stuey says. He opens the door and our crew files into the chamber waiting to cycle and get back on station. All except one. It’s in the back corner. In the last bit of shade. Stuey sticks his head out, clicks on coms. “Hey! Dumbass! We’re burning our time.”
I hold up my hand. “I got this Stuey.” I shut the door. I lock it. Stuey clicks on the private link “Mikey what gives? Thi–.” I click off the link. I click on Anna. “Roll back. No shade.” Anna complies. The suit starts to back into the retreating shade. It had one set of visors down. I see the second and third draw down. I open the link to its suit.
“You’re not invited.” I say. I recite a prayer from the old country.
The sound coming through my link makes me want to hurl. Pig squeals and baby screams. Bass rumbles and primate grunts. It runs at me. I grab it and slam it against the cage. It’s arms flail. It kicks and screams. I shut off my link. It’s dead silent in the vacuum, but I know it’s screaming. It gets weaker. It slumps to the ground. I step on its chest, unlock the helmet seal and twist off the helmet. Flames shoot out and misses me by a mere centimeter. The helmet and suit dissolves into white powder and disappears.
The universe is not just physics and rocket stuff, protocols and safety checks. It’s the old, old, rules too. Do not invite them in. Sunlight kills. Holy words have meaning. And as sure as we will go farther out into the new dark of space, the old dark will follow.