Come inside, see, join, taste what we have to learn

an’t find any records for this.”

“I’m telling you that's a colony obs station which — ”

“Is good salvage.”

“See, you’re learning.”

“We going in?”

“You like eating?”

A shadow glided onto the cramped bridge, avoiding the debris of unfinished maintenance work.

“What’ve we got?”

“Captain on deck.”

The two men gave hasty salutes. Ish drifted to the side, revealing the drifting white satellite on screen.

“No records?”

“None.”

“So, open salvage.”

“Good idea, Captain,” Ish said, winking at Alexi.

“Go ahead, move in slow. Watch for surprises left for honest space sweepers.”

“Take your time.”

“Not my first rodeo, Ish.”

“You’ve never worked a prize this big. You break something...”

“I’m swimming home.”

Alexi drifting the remaining distance to the outer airlock door. He found the exposed data port and slotted in the cable to his deck.

Data flooded the small screen.

“Hardline in, you catching this?”

“Yeah, some hello.”

“The gist?”

“Mostly a warning, translation’s janky. Seems standard.”

Alexi stared at his screen, then back at their fragile scavenger's skiff. He turned back to the station, glowing with reflected light.

“Anything I should worry about?”

“No,” said the Captain, his voice hard.

“Aye, Captain. Move ahead, kid.”

“Yes, sir,” Alexi’s hands danced a practiced waltz starting his breach script. Deadlights turned green one by one; the last stayed red.

“No, atmo.”

“Good news,” said Ish.

Their chatter continued as Alexi made careful progress into the dead station.

“Dammit!”

“Suit up; we’re going in.”

“But—”

“Now’s not the time, Ish, get over it and suit up.”

Alexi’s deck hung by the door. Ish moved it to the side and entered the station. The captain followed.

“They did a recon. A recon, one. Got a sample to study. Just a sample. One.”

“Alexi, it’s me, Ish.”

“One recon, one sample. Many have been waiting.”

“Many what?”

Ish kept his distance from Alexi and the dark slime entering his cracked helmet. The Captain stalked behind him, his blaster drawn.

“Them, been waiting, long long long. So many generations.”

“What?”

“Waiting over, learning learning learning,” said Alexi, his arms flung out waving at the desiccated bodies.

Ish jerked backward, the Captain tensed, but Ish shot up his palms.

Alexi’s skin was changing color, the slime threading around his head a growing web of nodes. Ish flinched as a tendril pierced Alexi’s right eye.

“Come lad, let’s go to the med bay, we — ”

The Captain shook his head once. Ish ignored him.

“Alexi, come please.”

“Cannot, Alexi teaching much. Senses so good, you join us too,” Alexi’s mouth moved though he stared blankly, tears streaming from his left eye.

It exploded outwards in a spray of burning blood as a beam of energy shot past Ish’s shoulder into the panel behind him.

“Captain!”

The captain’s blaster barked once more; a starburst through Alexi’s chest.

“Too late, Ish, move! We need to sterilize this station now!”

Alexi’s corpse spoke, “No no no. We have too much to learn.”

The other bodies moved.


First published in Sci Fi Shorts, and then included in their first Anthology and became my first print published story!