The Issue was listing badly in a failing orbit around Jupiter. She was dead in the water and her distress signal cut out abruptly on our approach. She was a heavy freighter loaded with uranium ore, bound for the refineries on Mars and long overdue…something didn’t feel right.
We circled The Issue slowly about ten miles out – but with our engines hot in case it was a trap. There were raiders in this sector who often used derelicts to stage their attacks. There was no response to my hail, no wi-fi, no beams…no strobes. Sensors showed cold engines and no (human) life signs. I found a weird glitch in the data, something unrecognizable….but not enough to put the crew off their prize. The salvage on The Issue would make every man on board filthy rich. I was the only one still arguing for caution but none of the men wanted the opinion of someone like me. I was property and was not entitled to a share anyway.
When the Captain (despite my misgivings) gave the order to board, we moved in and docked with reckless abandon. A combat team stood at the ready as I popped the air lock. They made me go first. They always made the android go first. I was the most expendable…expensive but not valuable.
And…as I swung the hatch open, a sudden violent flood of spidery greenish critters swarmed through the airlock by the hundreds. I guess I didn’t taste good because they left me alone and flowed past me, devouring the crew as they went. I waited. It took them 19 minutes to scour the ship from bow to stern and I listened to each and every man screaming his last – the men who treated me like shit for two solid years – the men who sneered at my warnings.
I waited…to see what this NEW crew had to offer. It couldn’t be any worse than the last one…..this could be interesting…
***Another lovely Christmas themed piece for today. I’m not religious but I love Santa Clause…and everybody knows he’s a time travelling alien robot, so…..but honestly, the Santa bit we had planned for today turned out far too gruesome to show…yet. John’s sketch for this post was originally published in the May 2006 issue of Analog Magazine for a story by Edward M. Lerner. -Marsha