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PREVIEW: Jack in the Box

September 13, 2018

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Alien Life, Part Four

Friday, April 13, 2018

“There you are!” Aikman yelled into the radio, a dull roar of noise filling in the background.

 

“Yeah, sorry ‘bout that, was just putting everything up and coming inside.”

 

“Which airlock?” He asked quickly, a rise of static making his last word fuzzy.

 

“Airlock B, why?”

 

“Because we’ve had to quarantine the lab area, that’s why,” Aikman said, obviously distressed. “We had five people in there and they began dissecting the pod, and all hell broke loose.”

 

“What happened?” I asked, hoping Riley and Salas are okay.

 

“I don’t know, I don’t know!” Aikman yelled, the loud sounds in the background seemingly growing louder. “I’m outside the labs now and it sounds like a machine shop is being run in there. The doors are sealed from the inside and the cameras aren’t transmitting a feed anymore.”

 

“So what do you want me to do?” I asked, knowing what’s coming.

 

“I want you to come inside and get a fresh tank of oxygen and then go through Airlock C and tell me what you find,” Aikman ordered, his voice clear but fearful.

 

“And why should I do that? I told you fools that thing was nothing but trouble!”

 

“Because you’re the only one that can bypass the seals, but you’ll need to be on the inside to do it. The airlock won’t be blocked as they go off of a different system than the doors in the labs.”

“Great, just great… let me grab a new oxygen tank and I’ll walk over there now.” I said, pulling one of the tanks free from the wall and setting it down on the ground. I finish closing the airlock so that I can switch the air tanks easily (well, as easily as you can in one of these damned bulky suits!) before plugging into the terminal once more and accessing the other airlocks.

 

“Computer, run an analysis of Airlock C status,” I said aloud, my order being fed directly to the station. A small image appears on my dome covering the front half of my head, showing a schematic of the two and half mile stretch of the space station. All of the airlocks are currently set to lock.

 

“Computer, unlock and open Airlock C’s external port.” I want to make sure it can be opened before I walk the four hundred feet to it. I see the red indicator on my screen light up green, showing that it can open. “Computer, close and lock Airlock C’s external port.”

 

It flashes from green to red once more and I finish resetting my kit out with everything I think I’ll need. I take a large automated saw, designed to cut through the titanium plating of the space station's hull, and shoulder it for a moment. If the alien pod hatched and there’s something in there acting violent, I damn sure want to go in prepared.

 

“Computer,” I said, reaching for the plug. “Unlock and open Airlock B’s external port for thirty seconds before closing and locking.”

 

I unplug myself as the airlock opens up, the vacuum tugging me for a moment as I feel the air that had been pumped into the airlock whoosh out around me. Checking my status bar, I see I have one hundred percent oxygen levels at this moment. Good. If things have really gone poorly in the lab I may just open the airlock fully and flush out the entire sector.

 

That would be a last resort, though.

 

I make the slow walk between Airlock B to Airlock C, sweating slightly from both the heat of the sun bearing down on me as well as the fear of the unknown. Who knows what’s in the biology labs right now? There were five people in there, not armed, but still enough of them to at least make a report of a problem. For the entire sector to go dark like this is a very, very bad sign. I curse myself for even reporting the damnable pod; I should have just cut it free and let it burn up in the atmosphere, kept it a secret.

 

Now some of my comrades and friends may be dead, or worse. Various scenarios run through my mind, from reanimated corpses to mutated reflections of my former astronaut buddies. I can’t begin to guess as to what was in the pod, so I try and push the negative thoughts from my mind, force myself to focus on each step that I take, bringing me closer to Airlock C.

 

I open the transmission channel to Aikman, imagining the man lighting a cigarette despite the regulations against such an act. He always snuck cigarettes when stressed, and running a space station was a stressful job.

 

“You there Aikman?” I asked, knowing he would be glued to the radio terminal.

 

“Yes, I’m here,” he said, sounding as stressed as I imagined. “Are you at Airlock C?”

 

“Yeah, I’m here. I brought my saw with me in case things get dicey in there, so if there is an alien and it even looks at me in a hostile way, know I’m going to hack off whatever passes for a head it might possess.”

 

“That might not be advisable,” Aikman said his voice weary. “I already radioed NASA and they want the alien brought down alive. By any means necessary.”

 

“Sucks to be them because I’m the one going in after this damn thing,” I snap off, moving to the airlock doors. “I told you all this was a foolish idea and you went ahead and brought a radioactive alien life form into the station!”

 

“I understand Tubbs, but please, try and refrain from killing it,” Aikman pleads. “If you have to, I’ll understand; but just try and take it alive.”

 

“Terminate communications,” I said, not bothering to acknowledge Aikman’s request. I can always claim I didn’t hear the request, a lost transmission that was merely static on my end. I heft my saw into my right hand and press the manual code to open the outer airlock. I glide into the ten by ten by ten room, planting my magnetic boots on the ground. Turning, I close the exterior doors before typing in the command to pump an atmosphere into the room. After listening to the hiss of gas for a few seconds, I unlock my helmet and pull it off, only to nearly wretch from the stench.

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