Who Needs Oxygen?

short stories collection - a compilation of my short stories.


We have entered into unknown territory, the nebula around us swirls with shades of pink, purple and orange and the light of stars long dead. It is a breathtaking sight. There are several young stars drifting through the ether that flare and burn the sky. It has been two years since our last encounter with a solid planet and some of the crew was starting to lose it. Luckily for us, we'd been given some ridiculous suits.

A tale that examines that pressing question of all explorers: How far would you go, and what would you sacrifice, for knowledge?

LOG 2320.09.11 | GPS 101.201.222 | Vessel: GALTRON

We have entered into unknown territory, the nebula around us swirled with shades of pink, purple and orange and the light of stars long dead. It is a breathtaking sight. Several young stars drifted through the ether, they flared and burned the sky. They twinkled and each has a multi-colored halo around it. Some appeared to be pulling the gases toward them, creating an endless variety of patterns upon the sky. If you stared hard enough, you could see shapes and objects in the mist, as if you were cloud watching. How I missed clouds. Or worlds like our own. It has been two years since our last encounter with a solid planet and some of the crew had started to lose it. Luckily for us, we'd been given some ridiculous suits. I think they pumped in sedatives to keep us calm.

LOG->cmd(\commit{Last sentence would make STARCOM suspicious})
Redaction accepted.

Sorry, have LOG->print(ALL) enabled so some suit commands might still appear.

I spent an unhealthy amount of time marveling at the suits. I'll describe, for anyone reading this log, these wonders of modern science. You see, the old astronaut suits had been a bit...clumsy. You wore this huge outfit that needed to be compressed by pumping in oxygen. Very inefficient. So they constructed this material mixture of copolymers, graphene and epoxy resin that allowed us to stretch the suit open then have it compress around our bodies once inside. It was terrible the first couple times you tried it on, felt like your ribs were being mutilated. But you got used to it and it provided an ample amount of maneuverability. We still needed to connect breathing mask to small tanks at our backs, not ideal, but we'd made do.

The nebula appeared to pulse and we all got ready, one of the astrophysicist had mentioned that this place should have hospitable worlds for us to explore. But that all depended on their equations and increasingly false 'theories'. I viewed them as mere hypothesis with a paucity of evidence, but I never say that to their arrogant-ass faces. We'd once spent a whole six months pursuing a dot on a screen, a possible planetoid that had been detected. Turns out it was a dead MOSFET capacitor on their old CCD camera. Fucking ridiculous. I was being paid and had no family to go back to, so what did it matter to me? But for the others, those with wives, children and relatives. Well, it took awhile to convince them not to murder some of our fellow crew. Either that or they increased the sedative dose. We couldn't disconnect the suits to check else we'd die. Or so they told us. Ah well.

"Hey! Hey! We've got something at 101.201.222[12]. Come take a look, captain! CAPTAIN!" one of the comm officers was yelling in that grating, high-pitched voice of hers. She was an ugly abomination and rightly so. She'd be endlessly harassed otherwise. Actually, every 'lady' on this forlorn vessel seemed to be a hybrid between a women and a beast. Betting STARCOM did that on purpose, to prevent space orgies and the inevitable lawsuits and offspring that would result. But it made all the men very...uptight. Always itching to kill something. Anyways, she kept up her chatter. "Someone bring the ship around and burn thrusters. We need to get there FAST. If it's not aligned between us and this star I can't track it."

Apparently someone was listening to her holler and the ship jerked. I walked around to the main console room and gazed at the screen. Around me people typed stuff. They were ALWAYS typing. Looked like gibberish. The room was an eerie white, all clean and such. Around the walkways and catwalks were red lines accented with black borders. The names of the different rooms were indicated with an arrow and massive, bold white letters. The screen flickered as someone changed to another, more expensive sensor that gave a proper view of the world. And what a world it was.

We had only encountered several M1, or Earth-like, planetoids during our many adventures. One had contained aliens; they beautiful specimens, but weak, and we put them down pretty rapidly. They appeared to be a cross between a jellyfish and a Gila monster. They would float in the air and had claws the size of forearms. Their teeth were poisonous, at least to us. One of our astrobiologist found that out to his detriment. But the best thing about them? Their bodies glowed as you shot them. Made for great killing, there was no ambiguity if you missed. Like playing a video game, if you will. Anyways, since then, we'd been a bit cocky and were itching to destroy other inferior species. After all, this was our galaxy.

The planet continued to enlarge and slowly filled the screen. We could see the blues, reds and greens that swirled. There didn't seem to be any defined landscape, likely owing to the twin stars that appeared to light both sides of the world equally. There were huge patches of ruby-red floating in a sea of blue. Earthen-brown structures jutted from the green and blue landscape that we assumed were continents.

"Alright! Everyone knows what to do. This is an M1, treat it as such. Let's do this!" our captain bellowed with his customary energy and fist-pumping rhetoric. He wore a pitch-black suit that had a gold strip running down the backside, where his spin should be. He looked over to me and beckon, I was part of the drop-team. First in, last out. I bent down and did a couple stretches then jump in the air a couple times. Little karate kick here, another there and I was good to go. I followed him and the rest to the pods, little wonders of engineering that allowed us to pull several tens of Gs with turning into bloody splotches. I grabbed the railing above me and swung back, opening the latch. Before I could swing forward, a comm officer ran by and pressed the ready button and the pod lite up a bright blue. I gave her a thumbs up then kicked off of the wall behind me and smashed my feet into the slots at the bottom of the craft. A latched hissed closed above me and my feet were bolted into place. Several more machines whirred and clamped me down then with a deafening roar the pod exited from its docking point. There were no viewports, but minutes later I felt the atmosphere angrily greet me followed by a sudden deceleration. Thump! I jerked forward a bit then reached down and put my hand around my INC-224, or as I like to call it, the Liberator.

The pod hissed open, I jumped out and was momentarily blinded by the surroundings. This twin star thing didn't agree with my single star eyes, but I adjusted after a pause. Around me several others were crawling out of their pods and dialing into the panels. With a whir each pod shut closed, awaiting it's owners return.

"Form up!" our captain yelled and gave a signal with his remaining two fingers. I looked at the back of my right hand, the compass kept spinning in circles. "Captain, there's no due north," I called out and pointed to my hand. He gave a nod then pulled his own INC-224 from his back harness and armed it. "Everyone set the pods as home point, all directions are to be based on those as origins." Several seconds later, everyone was ready and we moved out.

This world was covered with vegetation and we had to hack our way through foliage dense as fog and underbrush that seemed to reach-up and grasp at our knees. It wasn't all green, as we were used to, but all manner of colors. Those twin stars probably allowed the plants to be inefficient like that. Several trees had bright yellow trunks with red strips scything their way up from the base. Their branches were a mixture of blue and white with leaves a blinding gold. Several times I had to hit someone over the head to break their awe-struck gaze. This was exploration, not sight-seeing.

We continued forth and a mountain appeared in view, towering above the surrounding landscape. But something, surprise, was wrong about it. It seemed to jut upwards at times, then sink again and it was made of a crystal-like rock that reflected the stars light in all manner of directions. You could see into its core and out the other side. We all stopped and marveled. "Captain, think we should..." and at that instant, all hell broke lose.

To my right, one of the crew was lopped in half and before the upper-half of his body could hit the ground, it vaporized. I dropped to the ground and hit the upper part of my left hand twice, three times then paused and smacked it one last time. The world around me went dark, but I could hear the screams all around and the sound of fire. "STOP, STOP MOVING!" our captain bellowed and I hear echoes of the same, rhythmic tapping--two tap, three tap, SMACK. I felt a slight prickle confirming that other members had gone dark, or invisible. We'd perfected the technology to where you couldn't be seen, but neither could you see. The panels merely used all the information from light hitting one side of your suit and projected it to the appropriate panels on the opposite side. Simple, but effective. It never failed. The prickling helped us locate one another while dark, but suddenly, bit-by-bit, the prickling stopped. And I heard a gurgled scream each time. Holding my breath, I slithered along the ground towards the closest tree I could remember. I blinked twice and a small area around my eyes opened up. I crept up the trunk and settled down on a nearby branch and looked below.

We were being slaughtered. One-by-one. I could hear no noise even after amplifying the signal, except the very faint, rhythmic breathing of those still left below. Faint, but it was there. That's all that could give them away. And would soon give me away. Whatever was killing us, I wasn't escaping it. I got up and dialed ERS \o \admin. Hopefully STARCOM gets this signal, they'll need it. I jumped down and hit the ground with a thud and yelled, "Everyone, lights ON! They can hear us, invisibility won't work here!" As I said that, my Liberator materialized in my hands and I began firing in all directions, hoping to get a glimpse of the hidden enemy. People began to appear and also started firing, making sure not to hit each other. But time and again, someone would be sliced in half and their body vaporized. We could see no enemy, hear no sound, and feel no movement. This was futile, we would all...


LOG 2323.12.23 | GPS 101.201.222[12] | Vessel: NOBEL FORCE

We were tasked with finishing the mission that STARCOM's last vessel failed to complete. They were incompetent, arrogant and lost their entire crew in the process. We had received their distress signal, or rather the signal from a lone crew member who followed protocol, reporting of an attack by an unknown force. Word had leaked of the first human casualty to an alien race and STARCOM didn't think this looked good for the company. They also wanted to know what defeated their suits. So they sent us to ameliorate the situation.

As we approached the planet, I tried to yell a command, but then remember I couldn't. They had removed our lungs and instead supplied purified oxygen directly to our blood stream via IV. Some new buffer slurry was also mixed in, the bicarbonate system failed without our exhalation of carbon dioxide and they didn't want the entire crew dying of acidemia before we even left. It was entirely uncomfortably and it meant we had to first think of something really intense, to activate the mind-readers, then transmit our thoughts. Inefficient, but if this was how we would defeat this enemy, then so be it.

Shall we commence landing? A voice next to me inquired. No, not yet. I responded and looked at the screen once more. I had a mind to just glaze the planet, but STARCOM wanted evidence that these beast existed. So I blared SUIT UP and ran to the nearest pod, slammed my feet into the slots and blasted down. Minutes later, I was crawling on the ground. The rest of the team had initiated our sysLINK, so all thoughts were transmitted unfiltered, and had gone invisible. I amplified our sound signal and all I got back was noise. Alright, sounds clear. Move forward.

We continued to slide along the ground, silent and deadly. Based on the signal from the last transmission, we should be nearing the mountain that the previous crew encountered. We entered a clearing. STOP! I bellowed over the sysLINK. We stopped moving and no sooner did our sysLINK temorarily overload. Ahhhhh! kzzzzzzz.. No one bothered to move or check. We all knew what that meant. My hand drifted toward my INC-437. But a coldness gripped it and I suddenly could not move. kzzzzzz. Ahhhhhhh! kzzzzzzzz. Our sysLink was starting to die. I rolled over and turned off my invisibility...


LOG = new Log()
No errors, log started
Transmission established

Database = new Database(LOG->getTransmission())
Obj created, initialized
Connection established. Password accepted
Database->loadTable(crew GALTRON && crew NOBEL FORCE)

MIA, presumed dead. Last known transmission on 2320.09.11 at 101.201.222[12]. No survivors seen.
Suit: version 2.12.
Use getStatus(GALTRON,FULL) for full report.

Database->getStatus(NOBEL FORCE)
MIA, presumed dead. Last known transmission on 2323.12.23 at 101.201.222[12]. No survivors known.
Suit: version 12.209.
Use getStatus(NOBEL FORCE,FULL) for full report.

CREW = new CREW(database->loadTable(crew 00215))
ERROR: Note, can't modify own crew. Permission restricted, read access only granted.

PROTOCOLS = new Protocol()

Outputting all transmission to terminal.

Planet 102.201.222[12] appeared in viewport. Initiating transmission to STARCOM. Sending myself and team SpyOps to the surface of the planet. Two previous crews are assumed dead or terminated. Their whereabouts, status or recovery are not the primary objective. Their logs have been analyzed, proper adjustment have been made. Hands are operational, suit is fully charged, servos function exactly to spec. The rest of the crew has been charging during the journey, they should be at capacity. No discharges recorded.

Pod entered, standard protocol followed, foot slots functioned within threshold. Encountered an average of forty times Earth gravity on planet entry. The pods have landed, we set ordinate at landing point as instructed by previous crews. Surrounded by jungle, visible spectra shows variety of colors. LOG->video(:10,VIS). See short video for exact detail of surroundings. Other spectrum appear neutral, some readings in the UV range and little signatures besides the stars on the IR spectra. LOG->video(:10,UV\\IR). See video for more detail. Proceeded toward source of original disturbance. The crystal mountain can be seen. Bright signal in the UV spectra, signal ignored...

OS->new OS(\admin,ELEVATED).
Powering suite...done.
LOG = new LOG(OS->load(\usr\.tmpVARS))
Last session variables loaded. Error DISABLE_SERVO!_GSL1232.
Signal has been boosted.

Suite just initiated a automatic restart, power spike detected. We are under attack. Invisibility and powering down does not seem to affect the assault intensity. We have removed our heat signatures and initialized UV noise jamming. Attack stopped until battery low, had to drop countermeasures. Lost five of eight SpyOps. Still no sign of the enemy. Suggest suit revision...


bahanonu [at] alum.mit.edu

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©2006-2018 | biafra ahanonu | updated 31 january 2018
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