Silence is one of the most terrifying things in the world.
It’s the lack of life, of activity, that scares me the most. The halting moment between breaths, when you too try to stay as quiet as possible. It makes me feel small, like the world is closing in around me. Waiting for me to break.
Stack’s breathing cuts through the silence, momentarily, a short burst of air out-wards, then another in-wards. Short and sharp, filled with a pungent pause where he holds his breath. As if holding his breath will stop the inevitable.
Humans had a tendency to breath faster when they panic, I’ve learnt. By my guess, Stack is certainly well on his way to a full blown panic attack.
“Stop looking at me like that,” Stack hisses at me, “stupid robot.”
I glare at him. Just because some of us were not born in an organic way did not mean were were lesser beings. But certain humans still thought we are lesser than them. Even now, even after all this time. Even after we make our own civilisations out there, amongst the stars.
Some humans still hate us. One of those humans is Stack.
“I don’t know how it got in,” Stack says, pulling the safety off his pistol and pointing it at the door. His leg is still bleeding, mangled. There are bits of muscle hanging out of his skin, I can see white bone beneath the layers of dry crusted brown. It’s a mess. It’ll almost mean Stack will loose his leg, if he manages to survive this.
I run the calculations.
20% survival from leg wound, if he got to a doctor within the hour.
Well, that wasn’t going to happen. We were at least 5 hours flight away from the nearest Outer Rim station. Even then, we’d be lucky if there was a doctor.
“Go on,” Stack said, holding the pistol up to the door, “tell me I’m a fucking idiot.”
Silence might terrify me, but an angry human is worse than silence. Especially one like Stack. My mother always told me humans were loyal, loving, kind. They were the first design of our kind, and for that we had to respect them, treat them with kindness even if they might not treat us with some.
But with Stack, it was easy to annoy him. It was easy to rile him up.
“You’re a fucking idiot,” I say. It’s true, he is. He’s the one that brought the shipment on-board, he’s the one that didn’t check the roster of chemicals inside it. He should have known that the Garrison out at C-Base would try and sabotage us.
We’re the competition, you see. Easy to make money when the competition is dead in the frosty wastelands of a forgotten planet because their dumb ass Commander couldn’t keep his hands off a piece of smuggled load. Quick money was always Stack’s downfall, and now it was all of our downfall.
“Why don’t I just blow your smart arse fucking brains out?” Stack says, levelling the gun at the side of my head.
I take my eyes off the door and stare directly at Stack, pushing my head against the nozzle of the barrel. I could afford to be a little suicidal, we were good as dead anyway.
Unless I can get the Izasone distracted. Then I might have a chance.
Izasone’s were creatures of impulse see. See a thing move? Kill it and eat it. See a thing breathe? Kill it and eat it. See anything-
I think you get the picture.
Izasone’s would go for the easiest target first. The sitting duck if you will.
Or in this case, the sitting human.
Stack stares me down, finger hovering over the trigger. He knows I’m the one hope he has to get the ship landed safely after Trez’s guts had been pulled out by the Izasone. Without me, even if he manages to kill the Izasone, he’s still dead.
I glance back at his leg, and the blood pooling out of it. I analyse Stack’s pupils, his panic, his racing heart.
10% chance of survival.
“Because you’re not that much of a fucking idiot,” I reply.
Calling him a fucking idiot seems to rile him up, I assume it must be the pain receptors addling his feedback loops inside his squishy organic brain. But then, humans were primitive in the sense that they couldn’t shut off their pain receptors like I could. I’m sure if I was human, the fact my arm was mostly spread out in tiny little bits of circuitry would have caused me to use a few swear words as well.
“You’re a fucking robot,” Stack said, pointing the gun at the door, “go out there and fight it!”
I cock my head to one side.
“I have as much hope of winning as you do, Commander Stack,” I reply, enjoying the further rage that crawls across Stack’s face when I refuse to call him Captain, “and you are not my Captain.”
My Captain would always be Trez, not him. She was a leader, Stack was an angry creature.
“I am the highest ranking person aboard this ship-” Stack said, pressing the gun into my forehead harder. A disappointing manoeuvre.
Fine, have it your way Stack.
I grab Stack’s wrist, pulling him towards me as I stand up, taking a swift step over him and dislocating his shoulder.
He screams. Disappointing really. I’d have thought that he was made out of sterner stuff.
Down the hallway, the Izasone howls in response.
“You fucking Monster!” Stack screams, gun dropping from his hand as he writhed in agony. He flaps wildly like a fish that had been taken out of one of the breeding tanks on C deck, flopping hopelessly on the floor. Bits of blood form his leg splatter around the room.
He really is pathetic.
“You think you’re getting out of here?” Stack screamed, trying to pull himself upright. He can’t though, he’s too injured. And I’ve just taken his shooting arm from him.
I smile, scooping down and picking up the gun from the floor with my remaining good hand.
“I might have a chance,” I say, walking over to the door and flicking the lock off, “if the Izasone is distracted.”
“No,” Stack says, as he realises what I’m going to do. He tries to come for me, but he can’t. He only has one limb working.
He falls over, squirming on the floor.
5% chance of survival.
Might as well give him a quick death. It was almost being charitable.
I walk over to the door, pressing myself against the wall. The Izasone would go for Stack first, giving me enough time to get out and put some distance between myself and the creature.
“Don’t you dare,” Stack screams. He’s desperate now. He knows there is no escape.
The Izasone hows at the other end of the corridor.
I hit the button to unlock the door.
“NO!” Stack howls at me.
I shrug at him. It’s an apology, of sorts.
A dark purple blur streaks past me, heading for Stack. I ignore it, stepping out of the room and grabbing the door, swinging it shut behind me.
Stack’s screams cover up the noise of the locking mechanism falling back into place.
He deserved it, really. He brought the creature on-board, he had doomed us all.
I run the calculations in my head, how long it would take to get to the emergency escape pods from here, before the Izasone manages to break down the door.
15 minutes. 23% chance of survival.
The number flashes inside my minds eye. The math is correct, math never lies.
Still better than Stack’s, I think, glancing through the reinforced window inside the blood splattered room. Where Stack had been lying was now only mess of muscle and body parts.
A necessary sacrifice. I had 3% better chance of survival.
I had to take it.
I had to try.
Originally posted earlier this year as my “Newsletter Story” – the short story that subscribers to my newsletter get to see before the rest of the world!
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