07:55:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 819 words  
Categories: Announcements, Old Ventures: Refuge

ANNOUNCEMENT: NaNoWriMo 2018, Old Venture: Refuge

I'm sorry. I know, no man is an island, but I've had trouble even being one drop of rain in a river. It's difficult, these days, not to feel like the very foundations of sanity are shaking loose. And I have struggled under my burdens, as I know many of you do. I only yesterday finished last year's NaNo (which I'll be uploading soon to the blog) and I'm going to try and publish one chapter a day this NaNo. It's going to be a rough election cycle this year, and I'm hoping we can get through it together. But if you retain none of the words before or after this, remember these: you are not alone. Amidst all the chaos, and pain, and dehumanizing horror, you are known, you are cared about, you are loved. And so long as we continue to have each other, and to hold one another in our hearts, we have hope. Below is an excerpt, a preview of a chapter I realized was important enough to write and publish out of order, where it might still have some impact. As always, check back daily for updates, on this as well as on older projects that I got behind in posting publicly. And in the meantime, may you and yours stay safe and close in these trying times.

* * *

Jack stepped out onto the stage, and for a moment was blinded by the house lights, and then the chorus of flashbulbs from the media. "I'm happier than I can say to welcome a true American hero onto this stage," the man said, flashing a wide smile.

Jack shook his hand stiffly, then waited for him to clear the stage before speaking. "I'm not comfortable being here," Jack said, "and I'm sure that shows."

The audience chuckled nervously. "That's okay. You're laughing with me," he paused, "I think."

"But I've never been comfortable using my... celebrity, I guess, like this. I've marched, with John Lewis, Martin Luther King, for many varied human rights on many different occasions. You could say I've never been apolitical... but I've always attempted to keep who I am as a man separate from who I was as a symbol. I never wanted to trade on the good I've done, and even today, that's not my goal.

"But I can no longer abide my prior silence. This is not the usual push and pull of politics. This is the rise of something far more sinister, an enemy we fought a world war against, an enemy I hoped we vanquished for good. Maybe that was na´ve of me. Maybe my generation failed to keep the flames of vigilance lit.

"I didn't decide to speak until last week. I waited, hoping that sanity would return, that someone, anyone, would be able to show the Republican candidate that he's not just trying to be the leader of conservative America, or scared America, that he'll need to lead all of us. He'll need to represent the will of all of us. He'll need to represent the hopes, as well as the fears, of all of us. And their convention convinced me that realization will forever evade him. At his core, he is a divisive and spiteful man. He doesn't like the idea of an America united, unless he can force us to unite behind him, not as a good and changed man, but as he is, angry, scared and lashing out.

"And with each passing day, the parallels with the fascist rise- a rise that cost our world millions of lives- become stronger, and harder to ignore. Every day, more language about how everyone but America is the problem is used, while more narrowly defining what counts as America. I have seen this ugliness before, I have seen what it does to good men and women caught up in its throes, and I have seen what they in turn do to those they deem unworthy of sharing soil with. I wish I could be here for any other reason, truly. But we do not get to choose our burdens, only how we rise to meet them.

"So please, vote. Not just for Democrats, but for democracy itself, for a return to normalcy, to respecting our differences, and the rights of others. For returning this country to an ideal for the rest of the world to envy. For a world where our most vulnerable are cared for, protected, and safe. For America as we want her to be, and need her to be, not what she was. Because viewing who she was through rose-tinted glasses can't erase those who were left behind or excluded in that past, and we know better, now, and we have to do better. The only hope I have to leave you with is this: we can do better. I've seen it. And I pray I'll live to see it again. Thank you."

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  06:29:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 507 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Spaceshuttle Built for Two

?We have ignition,? Alan said over the radio. The shuttle started to shake under Laura. ?Is it too late to say no?? she asked with a grin. ?Yes.? Ken said. ?But I have a dog.? ?No, you don?t.? ?I wanted a dog.? ?Mai tells me Maria?s son is very dog-like.? ?Son?? she asked. ?Um. Crap. Did no one mention that?? ?That? all makes sense.? She?d never questioned it before. The idea that her boyfriend contracted a strange illness in space, and that the same illness had ravaged the Lunar Station. She had never asked how it spread, but the moment Ken mentioned a son? she put it all together as he watched. ?It is too late to turn the car around,? Ken said, and winced. ?No,? she said. ?It?s okay. I mean, I might try to tear her hair out when I see her-? ?Loathe as I am to preempt a cat fight- it could pretty quickly turn into a dog fight- and she?d win.? ?I?m okay. As okay as I think I can be, I guess. I suppose that gives us things to talk about, if he makes it back from Mars.? ?When, he gets back,? Ken corrected. ?But since I'm having honest conversations with people. Why did you ask me to come to the Moon? And I don't think wanting to have a copilot or even somebody to share the trip up with is the whole answer. And like you just said, I'm trapped in this tube. Can't go anywhere. So tell me.? ?I asked Zero first. He wanted to live on his own terms.? ?You know that's not what I meant. I want to know why you were so desperate to have a copilot.? ?Honestly?? ?Truth.? ?Nobody wants to die alone.? ?Motivational speaking is not your forte.? ?Not that I think we?re either of us going to die. But, nobody wants to be the only guinea pig, no matter how certain you are of an outcome. On that note, I had the Lunar Elevator locked down remotely. You?ll stay put there while I check out the Station. If nobody eats me, I?ll give you the all clear.? ?And if not?? ?Well,? Ken said, ?that's the other reason I wanted to make sure you were able to fly on your own. You can take the shuttle back to Earth.? ?And what do you think the odds are that'll happen?? ?Truth?? ?No reason to stop now.? ?Mai said 70%. But I'd lop some of that off, since she's got a parasite that has made her violently aggressive; it's even a possibility that the disease has developed an awareness, that it might be trying to draw in more prey. It's a bit science fictiony to assume that's what's happening, but I'd correct my survival chances down to 50%.? ?So you'd flip a coin to get into space?? Ken smiled. ?I'd play roulette to get into space- even if every space but 28 meant horrific dismemberment.? ?You're a crazy person.? ?Nope,? he said, and couldn't contain his grin, ?I'm an astronaut.?


  06:31:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 687 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Dry Powder

?Crap,? Paul said. His arm was heavy, and his first thought was that he?d killed Rica. But the heaviness was warm, and soft- and flesh. ?Crap,? he said again. ?What?? Rica asked. ?We had sex,? he said. ?What? No, we didn?t. And what do you mean, ?crap??? ?We had sex. We?re sweaty. And naked. And woke up on the floor in each other?s arms. And I?ve been crying.? ?You frequently cry during sex?? ?No, that was a side observation. And by ?crap? I mean that my girlfriend is going to murder me. And possibly make it look like you did it, so you have to go to girl prison.? Rica smiled. ?Oh. Good. But we didn?t have sex. Trust me, I know when I?ve had sex.? ?I used to,? Paul said. ?A little bit of a friction burniness, certain muscle soreness. But anymore? I heal too quick. I?m not confident the old telltales would still tell the tale.? ?Well I can tell you, definitively, we did not have sex. Because I didn?t fall asleep crying- I?ve been awake the whole time.? ?Oh.? ?We were at each other?s throats. Screaming. Fighting. We tore off each other?s clothes, and maybe there was something animal and mate or hate about it?? ?Mate or hate?? he asked. ?As in, if we?re nude it?s easier to either bang it out or find the soft, murdery bits. Instead, something about being vulnerable together? we both just went blubbery. There was much weeping, and cry-snotting.? ?Thank God,? Paul said. ?Hmm?? ?I kind of thought I had dried spooge on my neck. And in the circumstances, I think having your snot caked on me because we were comforting each other? well, it?s still gross, but it?s a personal, intimate, emotional kind of gross- which makes it inherently less gross.? ?It kind of weirds me out that I?m not the gayest person in this pod right now.? ?Given that we?re still in kind of a naked embrace, I?d say this is one of the more heterosexual things I?ve done on this trip.? ?Okay, you need to let go, now.? ?Okay,? Paul said, looping his arm from under her head, though not quite understanding her urgency. ?Sorry,? she said, rooting around in the dark for her clothes. ?I just knew if I stayed there much longer I was gonna get jabbed. And why ruin our perfectly platonic relationship?? ?So true.? ?How're you feeling?? ?Nonhomicidal. Peaceful, even. You?? ?Like I'd really like my next pee to not be into a bucket.? Unconsciously she glanced towards the bucket. ?Uh, Paul...? ?Yeah?? ?We knocked over the bucket. In the scuffle, I'd guess.? ?All the more reason to get out of here now. Where's your tablet.? ?Lights, up,? she said, and the lights came up to 40% brightness. ?Shit. Looks like we stepped on it. Repeated- and angrily.? ?Then how do we get out of here?? She looked to the door. ?Knock real loud?? She walked over and pounded on the metal. Levy's picture came onto a small screen beside the door. ?You guys cool?? he asked. ?We're cool,? Paul said, ?aside from one smashed tablet.? ?Yeah, I thought that might happen. But how do I know you're not just acting calm, biding your time for neckbitings and stomach open-tearings.? ?You're a dumbass, Levy.? ?Yeah. But that doesn't prove anything.? ?Eventually you have to let us out. The only question is whether or not Rica breaks off her foot in your dick.? Levy's eyes got wide until Paul grinned. ?In it? Whoa. Man. And what's messed up, is I bet somebody would watch that porno.? ?Levy!? Rica said. ?I'm opening it, I'm opening it.? The pod shook as it rotated. There was a hiss, and the door slid up. ?Whoa,? he said. ?It smells like a little league bathroom in there.? ?Seal it up,? Paul said. ?Shouldn't we clean it out?? Levy asked. ?Do you want to?? ?Um, no.? ?I don't think we'll need it again. So just rotate it back out into the stack.? ?Aye aye,? Levy said, saluted, and hit a few keys on the keypad. The door slid down.
  06:28:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 419 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Complications

?Laura?? Ken asked. ?I didn't expect to find you in a bar.? ?Are you drunk?? ?I drove here,? he said. ?That's not an answer.? ?I suppose it isn't. But no. I'm just elated.? ?And that elation isn't due to some other substance?? ?Only circumstance,? Ken said, and slipped into the seat next to her. ?But there's... well, a complication. With Paul. It?s not likely we'll ever be able to bring him back to Earth. Or any of the infected astronauts. They?re a contagion, after all. Bringing them to back would mean exposing the entire species to a hazardous genetic parasite- one that we need to study. But the plan for now, and for as long as the infection staves off the detrimental effects of microgravity, is for them to stay on the Moon.? ?The Moon needs a resupply. And it seems all of our trained astronauts have grown another dozen ovaries each. So I'm going myself. I'll pilot the resupply myself, and stay up there. But the smallest crew vehicle they have to put on top of the rocket is a 2 seater. ?And it ain?t like we can put cargo in the extra seat. What I?m saying, is if you want to ever see Paul again, this is probably your only chance. All you gotta do is agree to take a few courses remotely while you?re there. See, if you decide to stay, we?ve got to make sure you?re going to be useful to Mai- who you?ll be assisting.? ?This is crazy.? ?Crazy is my bread and butter.? ?It?s crazier, with the caveat that my boyfriend?s ex is now a scary space monster who might try and murder me.? ?Or sleep with you. And I?d given even odds to those two that she?ll just leave you alone. You get a chance at space. And true blave.? ?How could I say no?? ?There is one potential complication.? He picked up her glass and smelled it. It was straight bourbon. ?Though it?s apparently not a problem anymore.? He swallowed. ?You want to talk about it?? he asked. ?No.? ?Fair enough. You?ll have to pass the physical- but you're young, no history of illness or infirmity. And you know how to fly, right?? ?Paul taught me.? ?That?s what I thought. Normally, that?d be good enough. But you?re going to be my copilot, and I?ve got a crappy ticker. I don?t want to kill us both just because my genes hate me, so I want to make sure you're capable of one-womaning it.?


  06:23:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 536 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Golden Ticket

It had been several minutes since Ken asked the question. He was surrounded by astronauts, crazy space cowboys who usually fought each other over the chance to do something dangerous and stupid. But still, not a single hand was raised. ?This is a golden opportunity,? Ken said. ?A chance to be a part of years of research in space. It's the Moon, and an extra long stint; it's a singular opportunity to join the ultra elite who've spent the most time outside our orbit.? ?Sir,? one of the astronauts said, ?we're used to being guinea pigs. But that's always come with the reassurance that the best medical and scientific minds had already figured out all the variables, and the only risk was God viewing what we were doing as building a tower like the one in Babel. But this... it's based on conjecture and guesswork. You can church that up if you want, but it don't change the fact that this isn't a known risk. It's an unknown. Made worse by the fact that we don't really know what happened up there. The Moon went dark, and astronauts died. You give us your personal assurance that whatever happened up there is over- but that assurance doesn't mean a hell of a lot, since you'll be safe back here on Earth.? ?I'd gladly put my fanny where my mouth is. Don't chortle; I have an especiallly hygenic fanny. But the fact is NASA doesn't shoot people like me off world. I'm loud, and opinionated, and I make for one hell of a bureaucrat, but I'm no astronaut. And you are. You have been blessed with physicality, intelligence and talent. I would murder every third one of you for this slot. But that's no how it works.? Silence. ?This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to go into space. Sure, potential dismemberment?s a rider, but this is space, and not a one of you cowards wants to make the trip? Cowards. Every last one of you.? He stomped out of the conference room. But there was a smile hiding under his sneer. He?d never had the heart to hope for this, not since his idiopathic atrial fibrillation was discovered. But he was getting his shot. Alan knew him well enough to see all that, but he kept it to himself, at least until they were alone. ?I know this is what you want- what you?ve always wanted, since way before you joined the program. But you?re not that same kid anymore. You?d have to give up booze. And hookers. And booze. And all that?s assuming your second-rate heart doesn?t explode on the trip up.? ?That?s sweet, that you?re concerned. But you?re not my type.? ?And you?re not mine. But that doesn?t mean I can?t want you to be happy- or at a minimum alive.? ?This is every pretty boy or girl whose asshole you wanted to tongue; it?s my white fucking whale, Alan.? ?As opposed to your white eating whale?? ?I?m going to miss that sarcastic mouth of yours. But I?ll shoot you the moon from the Moon real regular, so you can keep it exercised.? ?I think, despite myself, I?ll miss you, too, Ken.? They hugged.


  06:23:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 737 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Each Other's Throats

Paul couldn?t be certain how long they?d been locked away. But he did know that things with Rica had gone from unpleasant to her snarling every single syllable at him. She bared her teeth, and he swore they were longer than before. ?You killed Alisa. I loved her.? He wanted to swallow his anger, and respond diplomatically, but his rage was overpowering. ?Did you? You knew her a handful of months. You banged her. I'd believe you loved banging her. But loved her? I've had produce around longer than you two were together.? ?You really know how to get a woman's goat, you know that? I fucking understand why Lis wanted to kill you. And I'm sad that she didn't succeed.? ?You sound like you?re anxious to finish her work.? ?No,? Rica said. ?If she wanted you dead, you?d be dead. She wanted the crew. She wanted all of us to be together.? ?She slaughtered Martin.? ?She fucked up. Like you fucked up with her. But the difference is nobody murdered you for it.? She shoved him, and there was enough strength behind it that Paul left the floor behind, and smashed spine-first into the wall of the pod. It was enough to shake it on its moorings. But he didn?t care. The whole world lost its color, and all he could see was Rica. Somewhere in the last vestiges of his rational mind, Paul recognized the moment. He felt the same with Alisa, when he chased her down. She was his whole world in that moment, and it took only a moment to decide what he wanted to do to her. He balled his fist and threw a punch that his inner doctor suspected would break her jaw, her transformation be damned. But she was swifter than him, and ducked beneath the blow, and used his momentum to grapple him into the opposite wall. In his head, Paul heard Levy say, ?We?ve got to stop meeting this way, wall,? but couldn?t laugh at it. Before Paul could pick himself off the floor this time, Rica lunged at him, and pinned him to the ground. They grappled, raking fingernails across one another?s face while trying desperately to get at each other?s necks. In the struggle, Rica put her knee in his crouch, and he doubled over, and it bought her enough distance to get her mouth over his neck. She bit down, but didn?t have the strength yet to tear through. She jerked her head from side to side, scraping bloody lines into his skin as he tried to pull away. She could feel Paul?s muscles swelling beneath her, saw the bones of his face jittering. Then she stopped. ?What the fuck is that?? she asked with her teeth still around his throat. He swallowed, and it unnerved the both of them hat his Adam?s Apple stroked against her tongue. ?Um,? he said, and turned red. ?Sorry, about that. I know we were trying to kill each other and everything, but? I guess the way you threw me around was, kind of hot.? Rica tried to hold it in, but couldn?t contain herself, and rolled off of him and laughed. When she could finally compose herself she sighed, and said, ?If I had a quarter for every time a guy poked me with a wrestling boner, I'd have a roll of quarters- just like the one you're sporting.? ?Heh,? Paul chuckled, and rubbed his face. ?Just so long as you aren't planning to do anything with it, sport,? she said. ?God, no. I might have gotten away with what happened with my ex- and I emphasize might, because I wouldn't put it past Laura to meet me on the ground with a double barrel shotgun.? ?But you weren't yourself, with the wolfing.? ?Maybe,? he said. ?But I've always loved Maria. And? Laura knows that.? ?Shit,? Rica said. ?I've been there. And it isn't fun.? ?No. But I think? I think we'd made our peace with it. Or I thought we had. And then with everything? anyway, my point is I think I've used my get out of jail free card already. But we found your kryptonite: awkward erections.? ?Awkward erections are everybody's kryptonite. Except, ironically, Superman?s. Why else would he wear pants that tight?? ?Just when I thought an erection couldn?t get any more awkward.? ?You did kind of deserve that,? she said. ?Yeah,? he said. ?Probably.?


  06:22:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 546 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Responsibility

?It doesn?t feel right,? Clod said. Ken sighed, and gave her an indulgent smile. ?It shouldn?t.? But the smile faded. ?Look, I like Paul. And I feel... responsible for him, and everything that's happened. But he's right. He and Rica, they aren't... expendable. But given the choice of losing the entire mission or losing the two of them- it's arithmetic.? ?I'm glad it's so easy to dehumanize us.? ?It isn't,? Ken protested. ?Don't think for a moment that every single soul lost on the Perseus and the Moon isn't a weight on me. But my job is to make sure there are as few of them as possible- and if that means tossing two astronauts into the void to save the rest, it's what we do- fucked up as that sounds.? ?I know you've been through a lot. Losing Martin that way...? he sighed. ?The Moon can function without an administrator, since most of the big decisions get made planetside, anyhow. But the Perseus... it requires a different kind of discipline. And leadership. It's not an easy role to have thrust on you, and particularly not under the circumstances. But we hired you to do the job because you had the right skills, and the right kind of potential. You can do this. And if the time comes, you will. If I?d ever had any doubts about that, there?d be somebody else in your seat right now.? ?I?ll get it done,? she said, ?but I?m sure as hell not happy about it.? ?And that?s why you get to sit in the fancy seat.? ?Yeah,? she said, and turned off the monitor. She sighed, and marched towards the storage pods. Levy was sitting near the entrance, sweating. ?Status?? ?Moist,? he said. ?But just about done.? ?Reservations?? she asked. ?Some,? he said. ?I don?t like the idea of us locking them up again- especially when this time? it feels different. Last time we were just trying to make sure Rica had an easy transformation. This time? it kind of feels like our reactor?s gone critical. And there?s nothing to do but hope the safety protocols work and we don?t melt down. But? I guess I take some comfort in that it?s like kenneling.? ?Hmm?? ?My family had a dog, Mittens. Cute little long haired Chihuahua. She loved to go on trips with the family. But she got ludicrously carsick. I?m pretty sure my parents were still finding vomit places when they sold their car ten years later. So the next year, on our big family vacation, we decided to put her up in a shelter. So we put her in her little carrier, hoping it would catch most of the projectile spew? and then nothing. Something about being in the kennel, it made her feel safe and I think kept her from running around and? well, anyway, the point was, we drove all the way to the kennel and she was fine, so we decided to just try taking her with us. And so long as she was inside her kennel, she was cool. So I?m trying to think of it as kenneling them. Except?? ?That in this case instead of painting the walls with vomit they?d be doing it with our blood and entrails?? ?In a nutshell.?


  06:21:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 501 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Zenith

?So we're concerned that you two are going to wolf out when we get closer to Mars?? Clod asked. ?It's a possibility,? Paul said. ?Likelihood?? Clod asked. ?Probability is for crap in this case,? Paul said. ?I could tell you one in four- but if that one is the outcome in the real world, then people have a one in one chance of getting hurt.? ?So we should take precautions,? she said. ?But this time I'm taking a tablet,? Rica said. ?And I'd like my own room.? ?I don't know if that's a good idea,? Paul said. ?If you are going to have issues. I want to be there. To keep you from hurting yourself.? ?Or anybody else?? she asked. ?The way you stopped Alisa?? Clod's mouth dropped open. ?If it comes to it,? Paul said. ?And if it comes to it, I'd want you to stop me, too.? She knew her reaction was more aggressive than usual- it was all she could do not to attack him outright. She had enough perspective to know she wasn?t in her right mind, and forced herself to say, ?Okay.? ?Levy and I will gather up supplies. He rigged together some modifications. We should be able to have a little more power than last time, and we?ve hooked up one of the burners from the lab, so we can have some warm meals, at least for the first few days.? ?You okay?? Clod asked. ?Profoundly not,? Rica said. ?Want to talk about it?? she asked. ?Where to start? Paul murdered my girlfriend, and it?s hard not to think that a part of his reasoning was that she was a threat to his domination. And I?m now strong enough to threaten his dominance, and I?m about to be locked in a small cell with him and a convenient excuse for why ?Two men enter, one man leave.?? ?Levy?? Clod asked. ?I think I finally understand his fascination with Thunderdome.? ?That?s reason enough to worry about you,? Clod deadpanned. ?But I feel really? vulnerable is probably the right word. Everything feels threatening. Everything puts me on edge. And I?ve always been shy. And introspective. And maybe a bit neurotic. But now those things make me want to fucking tear out the world?s throat.? She was shaking, and Clod reached out a hand to comfort her. ?Don?t,? Rica said, and her voice was mostly growl. ?I can feel it,? she said, and a tear ran over the lip of her eyelid. ?I?m losing control of myself. And as? scared as I am, of Paul, I?m just as scared of hurting anybody else. I hate that Lisa?s dead- but I?m just as scared of becoming her.? ?It?s different, now,? Clod said. ?We know things we didn?t, then. We recognize the signs. And Paul?s been through all of this once, now. If we knew then what we?ve learned, maybe we could have helped Lis, but?? Clod reached for her, hesitated, then touched her arm, ?you?re going to be okay.?


  06:20:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 979 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Amnesty

?So in your professional medical opinion?? Ken asked. ?I'd say there's no question to it. He did kind of bite one of my finger off, but... even for a baby he's docile. He's taken on canine socialization patterns- he's subordinated to basically everybody else in the pack.? ?But how would that translate to human beings?? ?You're thinking about lifting the quarantine?? ?Have to, at some point. Can't exactly cede the Moon to the monsters- no offense.? ?And what about us?? Mai asked. ?I don't follow,? Ken said. ?I mean are all of us destined for autopsy slabs in the Pentagon basement?? ?Oh,? Ken said, ?that. You probably would be,? Ken said, ?if the Pentagon understood what happened on the Moon. And given the overlap of astronauts and military personnel, it's probably only a matter of time before they get an inkling. But, what I'd like to propose, is a long-term experiment. Biometric data so far indicates that those infected with the wolf strain don't suffer the same microgravity complications as normal humans. We'd like to see how long that continues to be the case.? ?And what kind of a study length are we talking about?? Mai asked cautiously. ?Oh, I'd say generational. It ain't perfect,? Ken said, ?but I doubt even the DoD is crazy enough to come to the Moon to try and harvest astronaut DNA secrets. And in the interim, I've bought the complicity of the general staff with donated tissue samples from Zero. They want to try and skip over that whole murderous rampage second act- which is probably going to take some genetic engineering. But I wouldn't trust them if we were to make it easy for them to snatch up former lunar astronauts.? ?But the cub takes his social cues from us. Bill and Skot were still in the ICU when he was born, and at first he snubbed them. But when he saw the rest of us giving them deference, he realized that wounded or not they were still a part of his pack. He's a smart little guy.? ?Should be,? Ken said. ?He's got the biggest pair of brains on his mommas that rocket science could launch into space.? ?I did not think you were going to say brains,? Mai said. ?That's because you've got a filthy brain. An excellent science brain, but filthy, nonetheless.? ?And how did you know?? ?Man my age develops a sixth sense about these things.? ?Affairs? Office romance?? ?Lesbians.? ?Ah.? ?Oh, don't be a prude. I'm not the kind of man who spends hours abusing myself to the idea of visiting the set of a Girls Gone Wild. I just like knowing that out there, right now, there are girls kissing. It makes the universe a more beautiful place.? ?Still creepy.? ?Really?? Ken asked. ?I thought that was one of my more endearing traits.? ?Creepy. But you're nearly old enough that you not understanding it's creepy is adorable. Give it another few years.? ?You bust balls just like my ex-wife. God, why is that a turn-on?? ?That's... less creepy. Really, it's a little sad.? ?Hey, she left me. I never said I didn't love her.? ?And I'm beginning to think that you mistook me for a different kind of doctor.? ?We were just doing chit chat. Lunar astronaut selection was outside my purview, so you Moon men and women I don't know from my racist Korean dry cleaner. But you want to stick to business we can. We need a resupply for the Moon.? ?But the next resupply isn't for months.? ?Maybe. But you also burned through your medical supplies, food reserves and batteries already. Plus, that emergency patch up job Skot did on the reactor won't last. Speed's been warning us since it happened that there's a crack in the containment, and that without further repairs the reactor will melt down again. And speaking of Speed, he's still operating at partial capacity since someone tore out his circuit boards.? ?I was under an influence.? ?Story of my life,? Ken said, ?and also not my point. This whole plan we're talking about is a basic amnesty. Moon law is pretty mum on most of the affairs of men, and if we cannot talk about it long enough, I think the world will just remember how well the Lunar Station worked, and how we got a boot print on Mars. And I know the Elevator's busted. So I want to know honestly, Doc. Presuming that can be fixed, are you and the rest of your space werewolves going to eat your resupply crew?? ?I don't think so,? Mai said. ?You don't think so?? Ken asked. ?That's not a good enough answer. We work for the premiere nerd farm on Earth. I need numbers I can later fudge.? ?Sixty to seventy percent certain we won't attack whoever comes up here.? ?See? That I can fudge to eighty, ninety percent.? ?Fudge?? Mai asked. ?This is the intersection of science and politics,? Ken said. Sometimes truth has to take one for the team. But thank you for your expert opinion.? Ken shut off the broadcast, grinning. ?Why do I know that smile?? Alan asked. ?Have you ever been to a Vietnamese hooker?? ?No.? ?Then I have no idea.? ?No,? Alan said, understanding. ?You could go to the Moon.? ?What?? Ken asked. ?That's what that smile was. The thought, however fleeting, that you might get a shot at the Moon.? ?Fleeting is right,? Ken said. ?There's a dozen astronauts or more better qualified for the trip. And I think it'd take more than a bogeyman to make a dozen astronauts lose their grit. Like that moment when you catch the right light off your hooker's back and think she could be a well-preserved Linda Carter. It's a fun fantasy for a moment. But only a fool would organize his life around it.?


  06:19:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 746 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Blood Born

Maria?s face was red, and she glared with more malice than Mai had ever seen. ?I swear to God, Mai, if you tell me to push one more fucking time, I'm going to tear off your favorite limb and beat you to death with it.? ?I told you I could cut the little Ewok out of you.? ?You've always been a little too eager to put your hands inside me,? Maria said, straining. ?But I've always been gentle- and you've always enjoyed yourself. And at this point you've got a kid half-way hanging out your hooha. Sure, for the first month, it would be a conversation starter, but he's only going to get bigger and kick harder the longer you wait to push.? Maria hurt. She hurt more than she ever had- than the transformation, even. That was why she was fighting so hard not to push, because the pushing hurt even more- and it seemed like every push hurt more than the last. But she was fighting biology, and if the last eight months had taught her nothing else, it had taught her that biology always won out. So despite herself, she pushed one final time. ?Okay,? Mai said. ?I've got him. You want to see him, or should I towel him off fi-uck!? There was a wet plop. ?What's wrong?? Maria asked, trying to sit up but not having the strength to. Mai lowered herself to the floor. ?Little bastard bit off the tip of one of my fingers, and crawled under your bed.? ?Will it grow back?? ?Fingers don?t grow- oh, yeah, probably.? ?But I guess that ends the suspense of whether or not my son inherited our disease.? ?Aw, you called it ?our? disease- though not ?our? son.? ?I thought you weren?t ready to be a mommy. I believe you said, ?These tits weren?t made for milking?? she grabbed her chest for emphasis, and immediately regretted it. ?Ow, remind me not to grab them so hard. Really sensitive.? ?Really?? Mai asked, grinning, and approaching with her hands up in a groping position. ?Woman, I will punch you in the tit- and I have birth-giving rage-strength- I guarantee that would hurt more.? ?You?re no fun.? ?Wait, where?s our son?? ?He?s around. I closed the door, so he won?t get far. Can't believe he's crawling and biting already. Painkillers holding up?? ?Yeah, thank God. He clawed his way out of me, like a cat. We?re super lucky we got accelerated healing, because that crap would really suck without it. It still sucks; because it hurts, but the hurt won't last for nearly as long.? ?Yeah,? Mai said, ?about that. You?re sucking down about three times the normal dose of painkillers, thanks to that accelerated healing. It?s not all rainbows, I mean.? ?But about the kid,? Maria said, ?he's ours if you want him to be. I just didn't want to sound like I was leveraging the kid for a larger claim on you.? ?I want us to be ours,? Mai said. ?Aside from... all the tragedy, I've been happier with you in my life than with anyone else.? She swallowed and looked away. ?And if I'm honest, I'm worried he is going to screw that up.? ?Hey. Just because I'm his mother, doesn't make me any less yours.? ?Doesn't it? I'm going to have to share you- something I've never been good at. And if he isn't either... I just know the biology enough to know that if I come between you two, I'm the one who gets left out in the cold.? The baby slunk out from under the bed, leaving a trail of blood and amniotic fluid, like a grotesque little slug. He grabbed ahold of the side of the bed and tried to pull himself up. Then he yawned, and flopped over onto his butt. He seemed confused by gravity, and unsure if the slight pain on his rear warranted a response. He stared up at Mai, as if he hoped to glean some clue from her. ?My God,? Mai said. ?What?? ?Our son's beautiful.? ?Can I see him?? Maria asked. ?'Can I catch him?' is the operative question,? Mai said. She knelt onto the floor, and put out her hand. He sniffed at it, then rubbed his head against her palm. She slid her fingers under his goo-covered underarms, and picked him up. Mai held the boy out to his mother. ?Our son,? Maria said, and pulled them both close.


  06:18:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 1109 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Pathology

?Paul?s incremental samples have been fascinating,? Jenkins said. ?We?ve been able to compare his, well, we?re still arguing over the best terminology, but I favor the word mutation-? ?But symbiosis is more technically accurate-? Bronson bellowed. ?Which we?re not going to argue over at the moment,? Jenkins said firmly, ?but his mutation has followed a linear assimilation pattern- that is it was methodical- though atypically fast.? ?We were able to isolate some of patient zero?s pristine DNA and inject that into a stem cell colony. Then we took a scraping of this new, clean colony and reintroduced it to the pathogen. It colonized zero?s cells at a logarithmic rate- slightly slower than Paul?s.? ?But Paul?s samples from Rica and Alisa are even more intriguing in that light. Because they show even faster colonization than in Paul. Specifically, Alisa?s samples show polynomial growth. And by the time Rica was infected, it was spreading at an exponential rate.? ?It was learning how to adapt to human DNA,? Paul muttered. But it was lost, in that Mai, much closer to the Earth than Paul, started transmitting a question first. ?One variable that has seemed to result in extra aggression on the lunar surface was presence of a pregnancy in the person of our primary carrier.? Mai?s eyes got wide as she realized what she?d said. ?Um, whoops.? The moment Paul heard that, and then saw her reaction, he knew. ?Oh my God. Am I the dad?? ?Uh, in a way you?re kind of all of our sires, at this point,? Mai said. ?But technically, uh, procreatively, yuppers.? ?Healthy?? he asked. ?Big for the second trimester, but yeah.? ?Is the baby a carrier?? ?Like a pigeon. He?ll have his mother?s big eyes, or she?ll her father?s big teeth? you get the idea.? ?Goddamnit,? Ken broke in. ?Can you damned nerds stop talking long enough for us to get a word in edgewise? If we don?t establish some rules of order this is just going to proceed into chaos.? ?We?ve done some experimenting with various hormonal cultures,? Jenkins said. ?Particularly the presence of reproductive mixes of hormones led to cultures with increased levels of norepinephrine, GABA, vasopressin and even oxytocin. So, in a nutshell, yeah, pregnancy hormones make this thing go bonkers. There?s really any number of explanations for it. It could be that it?s trying to protect the child, and so turns the mother hyperaggressive. It could also be that that particular mix messes with its internal chemistry, making it bonkers.? ?One more rub,? Mai said, ?our ?pack? followed the primary carrier. But it was? I did things I don?t think I ever would have thought about doing, and not because she asked, but just because I thought it was what she wanted.? ?It?s not?? Jenkins furrowed his brow, ?it isn?t surprising that these things could follow matriarchal leadership. There?s certainly precedents in the animal kingdom. Elephants, lions,? he swallowed, ?sometimes wolves.? ?Sometimes?? Ken asked. ?Wolves tend to be? variable. Packs follow an alpha male and an alpha female. They each keep their own gender in check. Who ultimately leads depends on personality as much as anything, so female leadership happens quite frequently among wolves. But it?s also usually a partnership.? ?What happens when the female loses her alpha male?? Paul asked after a long delay. ?She finds another one.? Mai turned red. ?Oh,? Paul said, and smiled. His wife had always had a type, and Mai definitely fit it. ?One thing we're still trying to figure out was why the Moon was so much bloodier. From what you've told us, the wolves there were more aggressive in aggregate, as well as more active.? ?I have had a thought,? Dr. Pierce said. ?Not this crap again,? muttered Bronson. ?It's not necessarily crap,? he said. ?Myths often have some basis in real phenomenon. Early people who observed these wolf hybrids probably observed cycles that had to do with the moon. It may not be related to the lunar cycle, but say proximity. The moon is responsible for the tides. What if a similar phenomenon, on a cellular level, affects the change?? ?That... it's possible. If retarded.? ?But if all that's true, gravity would always be a factor on the moon. That could explain it.? ?But not the secession of hostilities.? ?There are a couple of possibilities, there. One, everyone being of the same, uh, for lack of a better word, species, might be enough. Alternately, the organisms are adaptive. It's possible they acclimated to the constant binary gravity.? ?What does that say about us?? Paul asked. ?I don?t follow,? said Bronson. ?They?re sufficiently far enough from the Earth and her moon that Perseus isn?t feeling significant effects from their dual gravity. But soon enough they?ll be entering into Martian space, and they?ll have Phobos and Deimos pulling on their heartstrings.? ?Shit,? Jenkins said. ?We?ll work the problem on our end,? Ken said, ?but we?re open to suggestions.? ?Roger,? Paul said. ?But if that?s it, I?d like a moment to consult with my lunar colleague. A personal matter.? ?Personal as in medically sensitive?? Ken asked, and raised an eyebrow. ?Because if he?s developing a bulbus glandis I think it would be interesting to share with the whole class.? ?Personal as in personal,? Paul said. ?Okay, but if he?s developing a dog cock, I want to know about it,? Ken said, and hung up. ?You know, spending more than a year away from Earth, you start to? I guess you just forget what an incredible Ken can be,? Mai said. Paul sighed. ?Yeah. He means well. Sometimes. How?s Maria?? he asked, his voice was quieter, softer. ?Oh, she?s? good,? Mai said. ?She?s been through a lot. Holds herself responsible for a lot.? ?No, I meant? well, I meant that, too. But I did the math and it?s been? she?s got to be close.? Mai smiled. ?About to burst,? she said. ?Healthy?? ?Kicks like a mule with grasshopper genes; and all of our tests have come up normal. Optimal, largely.? ?Damn,? Paul said. ?Isn?t that good news?? Mai asked. ?It is, and it isn?t. Optimal means, it means he?s probably going to turn out like us. And I just hope it doesn?t screw him up.? ?His mom?s got a good head on her shoulders. And genetically? this is probably the most perfect symbiotic relationship I?ve ever seen. I think it wants us to be healthy. I?m sure your son?s going to be fine.? ?My son?? he said, and swallowed. ?What?? ?Just, not a phrase I?d thought about. But is your conviction a medical opinion?? She shook her head. ?He?s going to be healthy. I know he will.?


  06:17:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 532 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Zero

?This is insane,? Jenkins protested. ?You can?t spell insane without NASA,? Ken said, and smiled. ?That?s? technically correct. Though you?d either have to reuse the second a or just badly misspell the word.? ?Insanity?s a prerequisite in our line of work,? Ken reaffirmed. ?That may be. But the DoD isn?t likely to just play ball.? ?Maybe,? Ken said. ?But either we tempt them with a handy on our terms, or we clench up and wait to be ravished- and I don?t mean that by way of flowery fantasy novel seduction- I mean it in the prison shower room sense.? ?I got that. And don?t take my reservation to mean look what we?re wearing, we deserved it, but- what if this scientific prick tease only gets them more interested.? ?Should be that what we give them they can culture indefinitely. Should be more than enough to study. And if they?re reckless and crazy enough-? he paused, and smiled, ?when they recklessly and crazily decide on human trials, they can snatch up some of their own recruits. Leastways that makes them less likely to cut them open, and at least guarantees medical, and benefits to their families. It ain?t perfect. And I can?t rule out the idea of cooler heads prevailing. The Joint Chiefs aren?t always warmongering sociopaths. Unless it?s Tuesday. But we?re here.? Ken slid his keycard into the door, and tapped in his code. Most of the labs in that wing had been closed a decade, and the whole place still stunk of dust. ?Am I getting HBO anytime soon?? the old man asked before Ken could say a word. ?I told you you were free to go.? ?You said that, and then you said that the Chinese knew where I lived, and that the DoD would probably find out about me sooner rather than later, and that if I stayed you?d guarantee my safety- and get me HBO.? ?Well now we?ve got a bigger issue than your pretentious viewing habits.? ?Oh?? Hamish asked. ?I?m fairly certain the Defense Department knows about you. Not specifically, understand, but the generalities, that somebody of your? talents exists under their nose.? ?That is a big issue. And I can't say I like the prospect of being vivisected.? ?Vivisected?? ?My old man was with the contingent that oversaw the destruction of unit 731?s camp. He had pictures- all kind of pictures- of the horrors the Japanese inflicted on the Chinese. But I guess that?s what people do without ?love thy enemy.?? ?You don?t think our Army?s a Christian?? ?Not since Vietnam, I don?t,? Hamish said. Ken nodded. ?I think I may have a way around your vivisection,? he said. ?What I'd like to do is have Jenkins biopsy your important organ systems.? ?Again?? Hamish complained. ?One last time. Jenkins will escort the samples to the DoD. And I'll drive you the hell out out of here. I made sure there isn't a single mention of your name beyond the alias, ?Zero,? anywhere, in the official record. They shouldn't be able to track you down. If you want, you could disappear. If not- you should be able to live out the rest of your days at home.?


  06:17:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 423 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Sacrificial Limb

Skot woke to his arm throbbing. But that made sense. He was suffering from serious radiation poisoning. He forced his eyes open, and stared at his right elbow, where there was supposed to be a forearm. ?Sorry about that,? Mai said over the comms. She was standing on the other side of a heavy glass plate around his bed. ?Bill's radiation therapy required more rads than we could get from the conventional method. And you were the nearest match for a donor. So it seemed synergistic until... well, we were getting a marrow sample and your arm fell off. The tendon deteriorated to the point where it couldn't hold your arm in place. The early indication is that it's going to grow back, once we've gotten rid of the irradiated tissue; I've got the limb on ice, and we might even be able to reattach that once your tendon's had time to heal.? ?Okay,? he said. ?But how'd I get here?? ?I carried you're heavy ass,? Ang said, stepping into the room. ?Then why isn't he in here with me. ?Because he didn't spend ten minutes dinkering inside a nuclear reactor,? Mai said. ?But how'd he get inside?? Skot asked. ?Speed,? Ang said. ?Once you had repaired the reactors, I thought it prudent to allow him to retrieve you. And despite your threat, I felt rescuing you was worth the risk to my processors,? Speed said. ?You sneaky silicon bastard,? Skot said. ?More important,? Ang said, ?now that you've made yourself into a giant irradiated wolf, what do we call you? The Incredible Hulf? A Wulk.? ?Abomination?? he asked sullenly. ?How's Bill?? ?It's early days,? Mai said. ?We managed to tank his immune system, which was step one. But trying to grow another immune system in its place, one that will tame his body's natural antagonism to this infection? Symbiosis. Whatever it is. It's a longer process- one I haven't really engaged in before. Early signs seem positive, and the planetside doctors I'm consulting with seem measuredly optimistic.? ?And the power?? ?We're back up to 60%. There's some damage we'll have to fix, but communications are back online. We've already found out some things. Perseus had a similar problem to ours.? ?Casualties?? ?Two.? ?The rest infected?? ?Half.? ?How'd they manage that?? ?I'm hoping to find out,? Mai said. ?We're going to do a three-way video conference.? ?The video delays are going to be maddening at that range,? Skot said. ?But not as maddening for us as for Ground Control,? Mai said with a grin.


  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.


  12:56:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 128 words  
Categories: Announcements

New Year's Sales! Telepath Chronicles and Euphoria/Dysphoria are $.99

New Year's Sale

In preparation for the third Future Chronicles release next week, The Telepath Chronicles is $.99 through Sunday. And you can enter to win a copy of The Alien Chronicles by commenting here after you buy Telepath.

On top of that, my cowriter Michelle Browne and I are offering Euphoria/Dysphoria for $.99 this week, too, through January 7th. Lots of fun scifi/fantasy to go around.

It's gonna be an exciting year. My schedule's gotten tossed this way and that, but I'll have lots of new stuff heading your way soon. I'm thrilled to share some of what's coming up this month, starting with an exclusive story set in Nexus' world, to be available in The Alien Chronicles. Nexus 2 is in editing, and won't be too far on its heels, everything permitting.


  06:15:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 982 words  
Categories: Lunacy

Lunacy: Outage

?Where's Vince?? Skot asked. ?I honestly don't know,? Ang said. ?They hadn't found him or Colleen when I took the train up to Alpha to get the rest of you.? ?Nobody mentioned him,? Skot said. ?I wanted to ask. But David's dead. Bill's dying...? Ang put his hand on Skot's shoulder. ?Do you think that means-? ?I think it means nobody mentioned him. He could still be missing. Maybe he made it up to the spaceport. I doubt he'd be able to communicate with us down here with the power so screwed up.? ?All the more reason to get it back on, then,? Skot said. He didn't believe Ang, and even wondered if he was being manipulated. But he wanted something comforting for the moment, se he was glad to have the delusion. Skot took Ang into the main electrical juncture room, past a sign that read ?Speed's Room.? ?Was he getting tired of people walking in on him masturbating?? Ang asked. ?Sort of,? Skot said. ?He's surprisingly sensitive, for a computer. He didn't feel like part of the crew, not having his own space. And he's a massive array of servers, so it's not like we could just put him in his own pod- or even move him, really. So Vince had the bright idea of just putting the sign on the door, and having people knock. Which reminds me.? He stopped, and knocked out shave and a haircut on a metal circuit case. ?Speed?? he called. ?Crap. I didn't have high hopes. But this would have all been simpler if Speed was still up and running.? ?Can't we just flip his breaker?? ?Nope,? Skot said. ?He's wired directly into the power. He's got breakers that can trip if there's a surge or something, but there's no way for me to reboot him. And you're biosystems, right?? ?Yeah.? ?Which means you're even more useless for this than I am,? he said. ?But that's probably irrelevant, anyway,? Skot said. ?Because we don't have the power to light a potato, let alone run the world's most advanced and sensitive server.? Skot turned the corner to Speed's server farm. There were circuit boards and chips strewn about the floor. ?And from the looks of it, he might not be in working order even then. And unless you spent your childhood assembling computers-? ?Hey.? ?I meant as a hobby- then this is probably beyond our abilities.? He moved past the servers to the central power juncture, to where the real damage was. ?We've got breakers tripped. We've got what looks like a slashed up circuit. But really, it only looks bad. It's all pretty cosmetic- the kind of damage you get with a vandal, or a wild animal fucking up your systems. But not reasoned sabotage by somebody who knows what they're doing. Which is why I don't understand... fuck it. Maybe there's more to it than it appears. I'm going to flip the breakers, then do a full reboot of the power system. That should get us back to limping along, at least.? Skot toggled the breakers first. ?Nothing?? Ang asked. ?Not surprising, there,? Skot said. ?We're oddly constrained. The tripped breakers only made it worse. But it doesn't fix the underlying problem.? He typed his override into the console. Even the emergency lighting in the room went down. ?Probably should have warned you about that. Power should come back in thirty seconds. And the medical areas have their own dedicated back up batteries, so the others should have continuous power regardless. It's just us standing around in the dark.? There was silence, and Skot thought he heard movement somewhere in the dark. A low growl rumbled somewhere off to his left. Skot's heart started to race, and he felt his bones starting to stretch. He closed his eyes and clamped his hand down on the edge of the console he was logged into. It warped and groaned. When it passed, he said, ?Not funny, Ang.? The emergency lights came back on, and Ang stifled a laugh. ?... it was a little funny.? Ang looked up at the ceiling. ?How long before the rest of the lights come on?? Skot frowned. ?That should have done it. But I've got nothing. I'm being overridden. But that doesn't make any sense. The only thing that should be able to override power use is Speed, and he's an empty metal box right now.? A door behind Skot opened. ?That's creepy,? he said. ?And yet... it makes sense. If we're going to figure out where the power's gone wrong, the relay station's our best next step.? Skot walked through the door. It only took him ten seconds to see there was no damage, not physically or electrically. Another door slid open at the back of the room. ?This time that doesn't make any sense. I've never even seen that door before,? Skot said. ?That's because it wasn't a door,? Ang said. ?It was a flammmable materials cabinet.? ?Secret door?? Skot asked with a swallow. ?My eleven year old Hardy Boys reading self just popped his first pubescent boner.? ?And we're following it?? ?I'm not going to spoil my eleven year old self's inaugural wood.? Skot went through the door first. Ang eyed it suspiciously. He didn't trust it not to slam shut on them the moment he was through. And he'd seen enough adventure movies to know the Asian guy basically never made it to the end. ?Whoa,? Skot said. Ang furrowed his brow. It looked like yet another small room packed tight with computers, to him. ?I did some wiring on the control room for that new reactor they installed in Houston. It looked exactly like this. Mother-fuck.? ?Please tell me that what's written on that monitor is an April Fool's joke,? Ang said. ?Why?? Skot asked, turning while asking, ?What's it say?? ?Reactor meltdown,? they said together.

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