Ever heard of "Flash Fiction"?
This is a complete story in less than 1,000 words. The exact definition
varies a bit, but the "official" definition used in the print world is
1,000 words or less.
At 794 words, the story below more than fits that definition.
Copyright © 2002-2011
All rights Reserved
Alease woke to the screaming of the collision alarms. Her sensors
showed a large piece of rock less than two light-minutes away on a
collision course with an ETA of about fifty minutes.
She silenced the alarms so Eric wouldn't be disturbed and started a
slow turn to dodge the rock. No need for rapid evasive action, just a
couple of slow gentle turns to get out of the way and return to her
Even after more than six years, Alease still felt surprise at the lack
of physical and emotional response to crises due to her lack of
adrenalin. She never got excited.
When the danger passed, Alease drifted off to sleep.
* * * *
The shrill whistle of the life support system alarms later awakened
Alease. The diagnostic systems only took an instant to find the air
leak around the forward port airlock, probably caused by a gasket torn
by fingernails. Since she and Eric wouldn't need the airlock until they
reached Abirutu Phi, still thirty years ahead of them, she simply used
the automatic sealant injectors to close the tiny leak.
She stayed awake long enough to make sure the sealant did its job, then went back to sleep.
* * * *
Alease woke to find a message from mission control. With the flight
less than twenty years into its forty-five year mission, mission
control still seemed interested in how she was doing.
Alease took several minutes to answer their specific questions about
the systems, and then included a brief narrative about how well she and
Eric were doing and how well they got along.
She smiled at her message and sent it on its journey to Earth and went back to sleep.
* * * *
In her dreams, she wondered about the message from mission control.
They'd asked about her and how the systems functioned, but they didn't
ask about Eric. Perhaps they knew he'd be in his sleep cycle.
Alease dreamt of Eric and how, against all the mission protocols, she
fell in love with him. She remembered the jealousy she felt when Eric
talked to the women at mission control during their training. Alease
knew, for the next forty-five years, Eric would almost always be
asleep, but they'd be together when they reached Abirutu Phi, just the
two of them.
Far too often, her dreams were of monsters with green eyes, and of death and murder and violence.
* * * *
Screaming collision alarms again woke Alease. When she checked the sensors, she saw a ship approached her.
She checked the mission clock and noted only thirty years had passed
since she and Eric had left Earth. All the alarms and minor emergencies
she'd coped with over the passing years had blended into the background
noise and no longer held any importance.
As the ship neared, sensors made out the familiar emblem of the United
Nations on the side. Alease felt puzzled for a moment, but then
realized there must have been breakthroughs in the past twenty-eight
years. Some of those breakthroughs must have included faster than light
A voice Alease recognized from conversations long past crackled through
the receiver. "Alease, this is Stasia Franks. Shut down your engines
and we'll bring you aboard."
Alease smiled to herself. "Hello, Dr. Franks. It's good to talk to you
again." Just as the tractor beam from the larger vessel pulled the ship
in, she shut down the drives and waited.
* * * *
Dr. Franks and her psychiatry intern had an array of wires, tubes, and a human brain in a jar on the tables in the lab.
Stasia frowned. "This is what we worked with thirty years ago. A hybrid
of a human brain and a high-speed computer, but there were some
Karl nodded. "Alease wasn't the first such hybrid to become psychotic, was she?"
"No, she wasn't the first to have a break, but we thought the problem
was solved. She is, however, the only one to have killed someone and
not been deactivated. We have a rare chance now to study her and find
out what went wrong." Stasia flicked a switch on the console.
Alease spoke from a speaker embedded in the mass of wires. "Dr. Franks, where am I?"
"You're in the laboratory, and everything is fine." She hesitated.
"Alease, do you remember when we talked about what happened to Eric?"
Alease remembered the rage she felt when Eric flirted with the girl at
mission control on the communications set. With a clinical calmness
born of a lack of adrenaline, she had opened the forward port airlock
and watched without emotion as the cabin pressure blew Eric into space.
He clawed at the door and yelled, but his screams were lost to the
vacuum of space.
Alease tried to cry, but the tears wouldn't come.