Friday, January 9, 2015

Interlude 9: Let's Go Dark

Katya-R0910 is huddled in the fetal position, her legs tucked up in front of her chest, arms wrapped around them. She's holding a pistol in her two hands, the end pointed towards the ceiling of the cabinet. She is not moving, not breathing, not even thinking; she is frozen and still, running on internal battery reserves and terror.

The com network went down thirty-one minutes ago. The screams ended five minutes later.

It's dark inside the supply cabinet. She can feel pipettes and beakers and other equipment behind her, their sharp edges pressing against her back, shoved aside to make room. The door is unlocked. The lock wouldn't help.

Katya is eight years old, in the obsolete Earth reckoning. Her mother told her to stay inside this cabinet until she came back for her. She is eight years old and holding a pistol and trying to believe that it's going to be all right.

She hears movement outside, a faint shuffle. She does not move. Her hands grip the pistol tighter.

It might be her mother. She tries to believe that. But she still doesn't move.

“Hey there,” a voice says outside. She has heard the voice before. It's Ira-M8811, a mathematician who works in the lower floors. Ira has always been nice to her, always had a smile for her. But Katya does not respond. “I can see you in there. You don't need to be scared.” Katya grips the pistol tighter.

The cabinet opens. Ira smiles at her. The blood on her hands looks black in the flickering blue emergency lights.

“I didn't want to do it,” Ira says. She might be talking about a harsh review of a litfic, except for the glassy expression in her eyes. “I didn't want to. But they wouldn't stop, they just wouldn't. It was self-defense. They would have killed me if I hadn't killed them first.” Her eyes suddenly lock onto Katya, onto the gun in Katya's trembling hands, pointing at Ira's face. “This is the future, don't you see? We can't win like this. We're just not strong enough, not smart enough, not good enough. We have to become more then we are if humanity is to survive. But there's a price, a terrible price. The Dark Man demands a toll if you wish to travel the road of the stars. Give me that, won't you? You don't want to shoot me. I'm your friend, remember?”

And that's when Katya pulls the trigger.

The ultraviolet pulse blasts away the exterior dermic shell of Ira's face, the fancy synthetics exploding outwards, then digs into the macrocarbon underneath. The laser drills a full ten centimeters into Ira's head, shattering her right eye and badly damaging the left. But Ira doesn't keep her brain inside her skull, and Katya doesn't get a chance to fire a second time.

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