Short Story: Infect

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SquireNed SquireNed's picture
Short Story: Infect

I wrote something. It's not really Eclipse Phase fan-fiction, but it's not entirely without inspiration from Eclipse Phase, either. My big goal was to get some practice writing with a semi-stream-of-consciousness approach, so it's more disjointed than I would normally write a story to be. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't.

Exhale.
Hold.
A metaphor for life. How long had he gone without living? He remembered his teacher:
There is no hard definition for life
it is something that happens with
self replicating and self sustaining
things; usually organisms
but who knows what awaits us out there?
Here he was, his lungs collapsing.
Inhale.
Since he had lived? Minutes? Hours? Days? Years? System said nothing. Living again, anyhow.
Was sick. Is sick? Is sick. Felt like thinking brain rolled about when head tilted; could see the discoloration all across his skin. Not congestion, not like allergic reaction to the living things of Earth or the chemicals man had created to help them span the stars. Just otherness inside him. Everything being replaced, changed. Altered carbon crawling through the veins, breaking through the skin in tiny spires.
Beautiful if seen behind the glass. Sublime in the skin. Already has the brain been hit? What will happen? If he screamed, it would spread. Countless spores, carried forth by desperation and spittle. And what sound would it make?
He had never heard it before, and he never would again. Incomplete metamorphosis; a temporary state.
First time in a body of metal, perception hacks declined. Inability to breathe had forced him to leave the body. Tried again with another body, but the memory persisted. Would his memory end? They had promised forever, a future beyond gods and myth. The afterlife would be the expanses of the stars, going forward forever. Forever, but what kind of life? Probably not human, even before this. But what made a human?
Twenty three chromosomes. Ability to think. Male or female parts to make another generation.
All altered or left behind.
The second thumb on the left hand calcified. An ebony obelisk, it shattered as he pulled himself down the corridor in the dim red emergency lighting, spraying shards and ichor. For a moment he pulled his hand away, looking at it. He supposed that he might never have been human; his birth body had not been unlike this one before the infection. Lucidity again after a time away. His other hand still intact; his left had been the vector.
Decontamination did nothing. It would have to flay him with radiation to remove the foreign bodies. Spires unaffected. Feeble effort in best case. Transponder still pinging through the ship. Save us. Save our souls.
Souls never knowing a mother or a God or a moment of tranquility. Souls belonging to the chunks of life that happened to coalesce in the artificial mixture, a primordial stew created by madmen to continue an existence that should never have been. Life, if it could be called that, that existed merely to predicate replication. Looking down at his body, the broken places where the skin had been pierced by the burgeoning spires. How do I still think? He asked himself this as he floated, the lack of gravity telling him that the gyroscopes had died along with his hopes for home. Surely his brain had been pierced, the fractals growing inside it as they had begun to burst from the boundaries of his body as humanity had once bursted from the boundaries of their home. It had been no ordinary salvage mission. But who had known, and for how long?
He thought of it as he pulled himself along with his arm, the other having coalesced into the trunk of his body as the spires grew out and through and back in on themselves. Lucidity, fleeting as always. The beacon pinged again, but with the handgun he was able to quiet it. A ricochet in the dark, a new hole. The quiet hiss of air before debris blocked the aperture. A slow bleed. He thought it fitting that the ship would die like he would.
Home. Far away now. Once a planet, then a ship, now a tiny station in the void. Laboratory to creche to academy to spacefaring. The sum of years and years, with cold silent sleep between. All that was to be gone now. Replaced, once they gave up, by a new man, one without the memory of death alone in space. Hopefully a man who would not die alone in space. He did not even feel the bulkhead as he floated into it, the fractal fingers jutting out of his spine breaking into a spray of black dust.
Exhale.
Hold.
The feeling of the air becoming thin was just in the mind. He knew that he had no way to feel it; if anything the air looked more dense, the dust and spores scattering the emergency light and turning the red into a muddy brown. A communicator implant, one of the few parts of his mortal coil not now subsumed, chirped with a response from a passing ship.
“Carthage, we saw your SOS. If you can hear us, hold tight. We’re on our way.”
Terror. One infection becomes many. A station, a ship, a planet. Outgoing ships. The space lanes. Three colonies. A sector. A Roanoke situation.
Shouting would infect them. He pushed on to Engineering, pulling with the remaining arm and limply kicking with the merged feet when his rotation allowed it. Every spin an orbit of a hundred years in an inky black. The air cleared as he made his way forward. Red lights of the main section became faint blue for the Engineering deck. A cluster of blackened cells floated in the corridor. Elise? Thomas? Ona? A nameless drone out of thousands? The face came into view. Stranger.
Herculean effort. Lost coordination. Twitching. The reactor room was made to keep people out, but the door had been left open. Antimatter stacks, full to the brim. Red tanks with warning labels.
The power conduit was still sealed; his fingers fused together as he pulled the panel off. One chance. Scrambling for cables. Teeth could cut. Which cables? Red to the red tanks? Panel floated away, diagram with it. Anchoring to the surface. Biting. Cutting.
And everything was white.

Creator of Street Rats, a CC-BY cyberpunk roleplaying game.