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Lunacy: China Syndrome


  06:16:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 1118 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: China Syndrome

Skot hit several keys, and flipped through more screens than Ang could track. ?Um. Near as I can tell the meltdown hasn't happened, yet. They've been pumping in coolant and water from across the Station, using the back-up electromagnet for containment. It was a lossy process- it's where all of the Station's power's gone, but it's kept the core from a technical meltdown.? ?I can't believe they programmed a back-up this thorough- then didn't tell anybody it was here. The words, ?They didn't,? flashed across his screen. ?Speed?? Skot asked. ?Indeed.? ?What happened?? ?Problem with reactor. Took all auxiliary power and batteries to contain it. Couldn't spare power to summon crew member, or run most of my processes. Am basically a very smart phone right now. Had to hope one of you would find this console. With help.? ?But Alpha and the train still had full power,? Ang said. ?Solar energy. I couldn't tap into it,? Speed wrote on the screen. ?We're here now,? Skot said. ?What can we do?? ?Manufacturing defect in control rod. Reaction can't be slowed.? ?I'm not a nuclear engineer, Speed,? Skot said. ?Neither am I,? flashed across the screen. ?Apparently you've got enough power to run your wise-ass protocols.? ?Wise-assery built into my processors,? Speed replied. ?Unfortunately, rods must be corrected manually.? ?How?? Skot asked, knowing he wasn't going to like the answer. Speed pulled up several schematics drawn in ASCII characters. ?Did you have to actually name him 'Skot?' Couldn't we have spent a moment arguing over who gets to crawl into the nuclear hell?? ?Time of essence,? Speed typed. ?Yeah,? Skot said. ?But there's one thing I need, first. Comms.? ?All power needed for containment.? ?Comms, or the world can burn, Speed. I'll be quick.? A soft beep let him know the comms were back on. ?Maria?? he called. ?The comms are back on,? she responded. ?Temporarily. Where's Vince?? ?He...? she hesitated, ?he didn't make it.? ?Goddamnit. I'll get Bill his power. You can kill the comms again, Speed.? Skot started stripping down to put on a radiation suit. ?Wait,? Ang said. ?Are we sure this is a good idea?? he asked. ?I don't think letting the reactor melt down is,? Skot said. ?No, I mean- he said he's just a really smart phone right now. Maybe there's another way to-? ?He's a phone now,? Skot reiterated, ?but when Speed put this in place, he was probably smarter than both of us put together- possibly the entire staff up here- pre-decimation. And if I don't do this, Bill dies soon, and all of us die before we get to later.? ?Vince wouldn't want this,? Ang said. ?If Vince wasn't a fucking corpse, I'd have to fight him to be the one rolling around in the nuclear pile.? Ang started to take off his clothes. ?Whoa, there, fella,? Skot said. ?I may swing that way, but I'm really not in a swinging mood right now.? Ang rolled his eyes. ?You might need help.? ?Don't be an igit. Only one of us probably has to die of radiation poisoning. And you know what? I'm okay with that. Vince was the love of my life. We were going to have kids together, when we rotated back to Earth. We'd already made arrangements with a pair of surrogates. We... had a life waiting for us on the other side of this empty fucking nothingness. And now there's nothing but the nothing. And I'm done fighting that. I'm okay with joining nothing.? ?You're upset. Let me do this.? ?I am upset,? Skot said. ?But I'm also a widow. And a murderer and cannibal. And... I think I'm fucking done. I can shuffle off this coil with nothing left on my bucket list- and several things I'd have rather gone without doing. And if it means helping some people on my way out- I'm doing it.? He finished sealing his radiation suit, and stepped on the other side of a glass door. ?Speed: shut and seal that door.? The door closed, but Skot didn't trust the computer not to open it if the other man asked nicely. ?Ang's a pussy, in case you haven't noticed. He'll prioritize saving me over fixing the reactor- a choice that will ultimately doom everyone on the Station. And if you let him in and I survive, I swear to your manufacturer that I will tear out every processory, chip, board, diode and doodad out of you.? Ang's eyes were wide, and he turned to the monitor. One word flashed across the screen: ?Understood.? Skot gave him a two finger salute. ?Sorry,? he said. ?You seem like a good guy. But I don't want you to save me. I'd rather know you're okay, too.? Skot walked along a long, spiraling cement staircase into the radiation chamber. He laughed at the sign warning about the consequences of radiation poisoning even with a suit past that point as he walked by it. The Geiger counter built into his suit wailed. He looked at the readout on his wrist, chuckled wryly to himself, and smashed the sensor against the wall. Steam was rising out of the core. It burned him through the suit, but he kept moving forward. He could see the control rods, butted up against the edge of the reactor. One of the rods in particular was bent. It was a minor manufacturing defect, that had grown worse upon repeated use as the reactor cycled. He felt faint from the heat, but kept moving, down into the core. He grabbed the rod with his right hand and pushed. It didn't budge. He could feel the muscles in his arms getting weaker. He thought of Vince, and wondered if he believed they'd be reunited in death, only to come to the conclusion he didn't. That made him angry, and he could feel his bones starting to stretch beneath the skin. He embraced the change, used its strength to push the rod. It bent, and the control rods slid into the reactor. But the change kept coming. He took in a deep breath, and realized it was hot, and wet. He opened his eyes to see steam pouring into his suit. His increased size tore open his radiation suit. He inhaled a lungful of radioactive steam, and fell to the floor. His arms ached, now, like they needed a trip to the dentist- which he was aware made no sense. But the control rod locked into place, and he grinned like a lunatic. ?Hah, you fucker. Thought you could,? he stopped, because he couldn't remember the next word in the sentence without starting over. ?Thought you could beat, beat me,? he muttered, and lost consciousness.

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