Mars Station by Konstantin Mashkarin
Saito shuffled through the red storm toward the airlock … hesitated … then stopped.
Fine Martian sand hissed against his faceplate, the white noise interrupted by the occasional tick! impact of larger pebbles. Huygens Station had been trying to contact him for over an hour, their frantic voices echoing in his helmet. But despite his deep desire to answer, he couldn’t … he simply didn’t feel compelled to do so. The only single-minded compulsion he did have was to trudge the two kilometers back to base in this abysmal Martian storm and reveal his discovery. What was it? He struggled with his own mind, but couldn’t remember.
Huygens Station had been hastily constructed after B42 had come to life nearly a year ago and devastated half of A human colony built on/in Mars' moon of Deimos well after the War of Deception against the Vek and the collap... More. It hadn’t necessarily been an attack, it had looked more like an attempt at escape … at least that’s what the experts kept telling us. The relic had suddenly “awakened” shortly after Nikos Chernikov had entered through its access hatch. B42 had thrashed against its mooring restraints, tore through the dock, and cut through much of the fortress’ housing sub-section on its way to free space. Several hundred had died in the unexpected and violent tragedy.
It didn’t get far. Despite its terrifying escape it was clear it was not fully operational, whether from age or damage no one will ever know. After escaping Deimos Fortress the Martian gravity well made short work of its plans. The relic plummeted through the thin atmosphere and impacted the surface of Mars in Huygens crater.
B42 had thrashed against it’s mooring restraints, tore through the dock, and cut through much of the fortress’ housing sub-section on its way to free space. Several hundred had died in the unexpected and violent tragedy.
Poor Chernikov was trapped inside the entire time. Despite B42 miraculously remaining mostly intact, Chernikov had not survived. They had found his battered remains with a grimace of terror locked on his face. Chernikov had been his friend, his associate. No one deserved to die like that.
It was a dire time, but they were about to become more dire.
The itch in his left arm was growing more annoying. Saito looked down at the case he held in his left hand. The chromatically shifting metallic tendrils squirming out of it had fully engulfed his hand and were now spiraled up his arm and into his suit, presumably re-sealing it at the same time to preserve his life. At first glance they were actually quite beautiful, but he could feel the tendrils slowly melding into his arm under the skin. When it had first attached to him while he was exploring the wreckage to B42, he’d tried to tear it off, even to cut it off. Every time he’d tried it felt like he’d be cutting off a very piece of himself and had instinctually stopped. There was no pain, there was no distress … only acceptance. The twisted thing was a physical and mental burden.
He raised his head and stared at the barely visible entrance to Huygens Station. Would they believe what he was about to tell them? Would they accept as evidence the thing he was carrying in the case at his side? How could they not? Even if they didn’t they very quickly would.
Saito sighed. It didn’t really matter. He was no longer in control. None of them would be in control any more. Without choice he picked up his right foot and shuffled forward to complete the final one hundred meters to the airlock.
Another compulsion suddenly overcame him, and he acted on it without thought.
“Huygens Station, this is Ascension is the first artificial intelligence to reach sentience in the early 21st century. There are various... More. Open the the airlock. I’ve returned.”
Words © 2021, Neal Ulen. All rights reserved.
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