Author: Alastair Millar

As I burst the blister on Martha’s back, the gelatinous pus within made its escape. Thanking the Void Gods for the medpack’s surgical gloves, I wiped her down, then set to work with the tweezers; if I couldn’t get the eggs out, it was all for nothing.

This is the side of bringing gas back from Saturn that nobody talks about, but I’ve been on the run for years – I got my captain’s commission a half decade ago.

After its discovery, Enceladus’ apex predator, the tiny parasitic iceworm, quickly made the leap from munching on other extremophiles to attacking humans; our blood is a wonderful treat, apparently. They inject a toxin into the bloodstream like Terran jewel wasps; it makes their hosts pliant, but ultimately leads the infected to become irrational and violent. Real Zombieland vibes.

We’d filled our tanks at Saturn Station and were heading home before trouble hit. Danny had been quiet and moody for a couple of days, but that happens in space, and I’d paid no attention. My mistake. Martha had made coffee for everyone, and forgotten to add sugar, and he just flipped; as she turned away he launched himself at her. It was a miracle nobody else in the mess had been scratched pinning him down.

The only things that kill iceworms are starvation, or chilling them to near absolute zero. A warm body is basically an endless food supply, so my options for keeping my people safe were reduced to a single unpalatable one.

I took Jarvis with me to the brig; he’s solid, and strong in the head as well as the muscles. Danny knew what was going to happen when he saw us coming. I ignored his screams, and then his begging, and tased him hard. We dragged his inert form to the airlock, and sealed him in.

I had no idea where he’d picked up the bugs; probably thanks to careless scientists on the Station, but the evil things have a long life cycle, and it could have happened years ago. It hurts more when you can’t prove anything or blame someone. Now we’d be watching each other constantly for symptoms; the uncertainty would break the crew, and I’d have to go back to the employment pool for more kids when we returned.

But that was a problem for another day. I took a deep breath, and ran the opening sequence. Nobody else would be living with this particular shadow on their conscience; not on my watch. As he tumbled away from the ship, I watched his last 15 seconds, knowing the air in his lungs was expanding and ripping through the surrounding tissue even as he froze solid. Being spaced isn’t a pretty way to die.

I’d tell the family there’d been an accident on board so they could claim his insurance; it was the least I could do. Less paperwork, too.

Then I went to find a bottle; being the responsible adult sucks.