As another thank you for visiting my tiny corner of the internet, I reached out to a professional voice actor (Jessica Robbins) and asked her to narrate this tale. She agreed, and her narration is amazingly fantastic! She’ll be a prominent voice in the industry, that’s my prediction. (And look out for her narrating my future novels!)
I hope you all enjoy the story. Listen or read it – either way, thank you very much for checking out my work.
Space Soap Opera
By Shami Stovall
“WARNING, ANCILLARY POWER RUNNING LOW,” the computer announced, its voice an irritating grate.
“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered. “We’re en route to the nearest star. Don’t get your wires crossed.”
The speaker crackled off, leaving me to my work. I finished securing the last of the hand tools to their chargers and wiped the sweat from my face. Everything was so damn heavy on this ship. I should’ve looked at the gravity generator, but it could wait until after the ship’s power was restored.
I walked over to the nearest planet-crawler and smiled. “Whelp, looks like you’re secure.”
The planet-crawler didn’t answer. Of course it didn’t. The robot didn’t have a mouth, or a speaker, or any way to communicate. Not to mention it was turned off.
I brushed my hand over the planet-crawler’s stabilizing legs. All four of them were massive—duralumin machinery with three joints and grip-claw feet—and they folded up tight against the central man-sized body. The thing looked like a giant spider when it was up and about, which was amusing, but the planet-crawler didn’t look so interesting when it was curled up and mounted to the ship’s power jack.
It hung on the wall, massive and lifeless. It weighed as much as a forklift.
“I almost lost you to the weather on Kelpher-438b, Jones,” I said as I patted the crawler.
Technically, the crawler’s designation was PC-14537, but I had been alone on this rig far too long. In order to flex my creative talents, I had named every bit of equipment and given them all quirky personalities and melodramatic histories. The imaginary drama passed the time better than staring at the wall, especially since I had run out of entertainment discs months ago.
I reached up and moved the planet-crawler’s swivel camera “eye” in time with my mock speech. “I’m sorry, Emma. I promise I won’t cause you any trouble in the future, beep boop.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I replied. “I’m just glad you’re okay.”
“You’re too good to me.”
I patted the top of the camera. “You’re my favorite, Jones.”
The moment I stopped speaking to myself, the ship got quiet. No music. No creaking. Only the sound of my breathing. When I dwelled on the silence, I succumbed to crippling loneliness, which was why I tried to distract myself whenever possible.
“Computer,” I said, “play some ragtime.”
“WARNING, ANCILLARY POWER RUNNING LOW,” the computer repeated. “COMPANY POLICY PROHIBITS EXTRANEOUS POWER USE WHEN OPERATING AT CRITICAL POWER RESERVES.”
Of course it did. Company policy prohibited all forms of entertainment whenever possible. Heaven forbid I listened to music while working. It might distract me from my duties. It wasn’t like listening to music would even drain the ship’s reserves—it was one of the lightest uses on the ship’s power imaginable.
I exhaled and pushed it from my mind. There was work to do. I walked to the next planet-crawler and checked to see that it was mounted correctly.
“How’re you today, Rose?” I asked. The pink lens on her camera “eye” was the prettiest out of the bunch.
“It’s a terrible day, Emma.”
“Oh?” I asked. “What happened?”
“Marx… He dumped me. Last night. After a passionate round of love making.”
“How scandalous,” I drawled as I pulled on the plugs. “Marx should be ashamed.”
The planet-crawlers hooked themselves to the wall and it was a rare occasion that I needed to correct anything. If something were wrong, I could use the manual controls to rearrange the crawlers, but that had happened a grand total of two times in the last three years. I doubted I would have a job once I got back to the main space station—the company had probably designed better planet-crawlers that didn’t require a sad sack like me to check all their work.
I shook the crawler and used my mock-voice to continue the imaginary conversation. “I’ll never be the same again, Emma! Why did he leave me?”
“Calm down, Rose,” I replied in my normal tone. I stopped shaking the planet crawler. “There are still plenty of men in the sea. What about Jones? I hear Jones is single.”
“I don’t care for Jones. He’s clumsy and got dirty on Kelpher-438b when he took that tumble in the storm.”
“That’s true. But he’s a good guy. You need a good guy in your life, Rose. You deserve the very best.”
“You think so?”
“Thank you, Emma! Talking to you has really turned my life around. My self-esteem has increased by a factor of 1,000.”
“Oh, stop,” I said, stepping away from the crawler and waving away the comment. “You’re making me blush.”
Once I had made sure everything was in order, I moved over to the last planet-crawler and shook my head. Fresh off the assembly line, these robots all looked the same, but after a few planet-side runs, they had scuffs and souvenirs that gave them their own appearance. Jones had been scratched from a handful of falls, and Rose had been sun-bleached on one side. Marx, the primary planet-crawler, had a chipped leg. I doubted anyone unaccustomed to planet-crawlers would even notice, but they all appeared way different to me.
“Shame on you, Marx,” I said.
The planet-crawler didn’t move.
“You really hurt Rose’s feelings,” I continued as I walked around to the crawler’s side. The chargers were attached properly, and I pulled on the plugs. “Who dumps a girl after making love to her? You’re kind of a scumbag.”
Done with my examination, I stepped back and crossed my arms over my chest. The planet-crawler hung on the wall, unmoving. I kicked Marx’s chipped leg, hurting my toe through the solid material of my boot.
“That’s what you get,” I said through eye-watering pain. “And you better leave Rose alone. You two have been on-again, off-again too many times to count, and Rose is with Jones now. You’re just going to have to move on.”
Silence settled over the power bay.
“That’s what I thought.”
I turned on my heel and flounced to the door. Before I left, I glanced over my shoulder and smiled. “Goodnight, guys. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Then I walked into the hallway and made sure the door was shut securely behind me.
The grey-on-grey of the dull spaceship stifled all joy. Yellow signs and maps informed any passengers where everything was—in reality, I was the sole passenger—and those splotches of mustard were the only real color other than the sight of passing planets outside the viewing windows.
“APPROACHING DESIGNATED DESTINATION,” the computer announced. “RECHARGING WILL BEGIN SHORTLY.”
The shutters on the viewing windows slammed shut. I rolled my eyes. We would be too close to the star to allow for anyone to glance outside, even through the clear aluminum of the windows, but it still depressed me.
“SOLAR RECHARGING WILL NOW COMMENCE.”
The lights flickered once and then powered down, leaving the ship shrouded in darkness. Red emergency lights built into the floors snapped on, their dim glow enough for me to see, but not enough to do anything other than stumble around. Company policy was to sleep during the recharging so that the ship could stay in low-power mode throughout the entire process. It was irritating that I effectively had a forced nap time, but what was I going to do about it? Complain? Not like anyone would listen.
This place was a pit of boredom. I would have given anything for a hint of excitement.
But since that wasn’t going to happen, I ambled down the hall to my private quarters, the only room in the ship lit with dim blue lights. My bed—nothing more than a semi-padded flat surface—was the smallest regulations would allow. Lucky me. Before I lied down, I grabbed the communicator off the wall and tucked it into my jumpsuit pocket. On the off chance someone tried to get ahold of me, I didn’t want to miss it. Human interaction was precious these days.
I threw myself on top of the blankets and wiggled into a comfortable position. The pillow wasn’t much better, and it took me a few tosses and turns to find a good spot.
“Are you made of rocks?” I asked, punching it.
“Actually, Emma,” the pillow replied in a squeaky tone, “it’s offensive to use the term ‘rocks’. The correct phrase is ‘naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals’.”
I groaned, and then slammed my head back on the rigid sleep aid. Was it just me, or was the universe devoid of mirth and merriment these days? I needed to spice things up. It had only been three years—and I still had four years left on my company contract—how was I going to make it through all this without going mad?
A dead stillness permeated the ship now that it had stopped.
I closed my eyes.
The beating of my heart was the loudest sound for miles.
When I shifted my position, it was a cacophony of noise. Blankets rustling, my huffed breath, the creaking of the bed—damn exciting. The silence was so intense it actually prevented me from sleeping.
Then a loud crash echoed throughout the ship.
A dump of adrenaline got me to my feet and shaking before I could comprehend what had happened. I glanced around my room. The ship hadn’t moved. Everything was in its place.
A single crash. That was it. I took a deep breath and exhaled, my patience slipping. No doubt one of the planet-crawlers had fallen off their mount. I hoped it had been Marx. But no matter who it was, that just meant more work for me. Company policy demanded that, should any piece of equipment get damaged, I needed to repair it as soon as I discovered the problem.
Well, I haven’t discovered the problem yet. It could wait until after my nap.
I rubbed my arms from the shoulders to the elbows. The temperature had dropped thanks to the ship’s power-saving mode. Perfect. I was sure a frosty bed of snow would help me sleep.
I held my breath and listened, hoping nothing else was wrong. Weird stuff happened in space. That was just a fact. I had seen it a million times before. And no one wanted a problem out in the middle of nowhere, not when they were all alone. No one.
The silence that followed was the same as the silence before. Deafening. I guessed it was safe to return to my napping. There was nothing to worry about. Once the ship had recharged, I would be able to head to the nearest station. That was good. Very good. Maybe I had even imagined the crash.
I lied back down and stared at the darkness of the ceiling.
Then there was another loud crash. I jumped to my feet, panicking. Was there a problem? There had better not be a problem. Dread iced my already cold body. Please don’t let there be a problem.
I walked out into the red glow of the hallway and squinted.
Nothing was out of place. Even the shadows rested where they should have.
I stormed down the hallway and kept my eyes wide, examining every metal panel and pipe. This place hadn’t been designed with comfort in mind, that was for sure. The ship had all the luxury of a cannery. Even the kitchen looked like something straight out of a prison—small countertops, a locked food containment box, and a few plastic trays to hold the rehydrated paste.
God, I hated this place. Why had I even taken this job? It had been a mistake. Everything about this assignment had been a big waste of my energy and life.
I took my time to search the rest of the ship. Nothing was out of place. The bio-waste bin hadn’t moved, the life support system was functioning, and the engine room was humming smooth. Which meant it was probably one of the crawlers.
I didn’t want to fix a broken planet-crawler. It was tedious and awful and all that drama in power bay after Rose left Marx was too much to handle right now.
There was always a possibility that something had fallen inside the cargo hold, but there was nothing but rocks and metals in there. Who cared if it shifted around?
I had no other places to check.
With a sigh, I opened the power bay door. A void of darkness greeted me. I saw nothing, and for a moment, the fear from earlier returned. The power bay shouldn’t have looked like this. Where were the emergency lights?
I reached for the maintenance box mounted on the hallway wall—marked with yellow arrows, like I was a goddamn six-year-old who needed crayon-like instructions—and I withdrew a small flashlight. After a few whacks, the device lit up, giving me a stream of illumination.
I shined the light into the room and jumped back. With unsteady hands, I brought the light up for a second inspection.
Marx and Jones were gone. Their mounts were busted, the plugs were dangling. And they weren’t on the floor. They weren’t anywhere in the room.
Rose had been smashed and ruined, slammed against the wall on her recharging station as though attacked from the side. I rushed over and examined the damage. She had been bashed multiple times, and the pink lens of her camera had been shattered as though struck directly.
My hands shook as I backed away from the wreckage. Cleaning fluids leaked onto the floor from the broken mounts.
With short breaths, I glanced around, desperate to find any evidence or trail. The massive cargo bay door was open. Had Marx and Jones dismounted from their charging stations and went to the hold? What was going on? They didn’t have any intelligence—no real AI, just programs for operating planet-side and mounting themselves on the wall—they couldn’t have possibly gotten up and… done things…
I glanced back over at Rose. She had been attacked. Killed in her sleep. Poor thing. Had Marx done this? Was it because he was jealous that she had gone to Jones after their breakup?
What was I even thinking? They were robots. No emotion. None at all. All their stories had been made up in my head.
The slam of metal-on-metal rang throughout the room. It was the planet-crawlers—I knew the sound well enough—but the sound stopped as quickly as it had started. I waited, and after thirty seconds, I heard it again, this time closer. I shined the flashlight into the cargo bay. The rocks, metals, and steel containment boxes were too numerous to see anything without extensive searching.
A loud scrape of metal sent a shiver down my spine.
They were getting closer. Creeping along. That wasn’t normal.
I backed out of the power bay and shut the door.
“Everything is okay,” I muttered. “The ship is still intact. Nothing is happening that I can’t handle.”
I jogged back to my room, my legs trembling. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Once in my room, I withdrew the ship-to-ship communicator from my jumpsuit pocket and clicked it on to the nearest company ship.
“THE SHIP IS CURRENTLY RECHARGING,” the computer stated. “COMPANY POLICY PROHIBITS EXTRANEOUS POWER USE WHEN OPERATING AT CRITICAL POWER RESERVES.”
“This is an emergency,” I said.
“ESTABLISHING EMERGENCY CONNECTION.”
I shut the door to my room and held the palm-sized communicator up to my mouth, my heartbeat going at three times the normal rate. What was I so afraid of? I needed to calm down. Everything was fine. Please, for the love of all that was holy, someone answer.
The communicator crackled to life.
A man’s voice, distorted by the electronics, began with, “This is maintenance worker alpha-89—”
“Dwyer,” I said, cutting him off. “Thank God. Dwyer, it’s me.”
“Emma?” Dwyer asked, confusion thick in his voice. “What’s wrong?”
“I have a problem. It’s the planet-crawlers. They started moving during the recharge.”
“Okay. And then what?”
“And… and what do you mean, and then what? They started moving! They dismounted and they’re walking around the ship!”
“That happens sometimes when they get recharged. It’s like they reboot and think they’re on their last mission.”
Dwyer’s amusement was evident in his voice. I held back my anger and took a deep breath.
“They destroyed one of the other crawlers,” I said, taking the time to enunciate each word with the gravity it deserved. “They aren’t acting normal. They’re in the hold.”
He didn’t say anything, and I got antsy.
“Well?” I asked. “Have you heard of that happening before?”
“Did you use the emergency line just to talk to me during a recharge? I’m flattered, but we really can’t keep doing this. The last nine hour conversation got us both written up. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, mind you.”
I ran my free hand through my hair, gritting my teeth. Dwyer was a great guy—he was the one I called when I had questions, and his joking normally put me in a good mood—but I wished he would take this seriously. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before.
The grate of metal-on-metal was loud enough to be heard through my closed door. I shivered and kept the communicator close.
“Did you hear that?” I whispered.
Dwyer chuckled. “These communicators are cheap as dirt. If I can barely hear you, there’s no way I’m going to hear the voices in your head.”
“Goddammit, Dwyer,” I snapped. “I’m being serious! The crawlers… They’re creeping around. Moving odd. In short bursts. Like they don’t want me to know where they are…”
“Okay, okay. Now you’re starting to worry me. You sound like that crazy actress in all those safety videos we had to watch. Do you remember the one? About deep space delirium?”
“I remember,” I whispered. “But this isn’t like that.”
“Really? Don’t you remember all the side effects? Irritability, paranoia, irrationality, listlessness, severe depression—any of that sound like how you’ve been feeling?”
“I—” With a deep breath, I cut myself short. That wasn’t me. Right? I exhaled. “Look, I’ve been working through my depression. I call you from time to time.”
“We haven’t talked in three months.”
“I… I also talk to the crawlers. I gave them names and personalities. In a healthy way, I swear.”
“Are you serious, Emma?” Dwyer sighed into the device and I felt my anger rising. I was in trouble! It didn’t matter how depressed I was! “Why don’t you use the manual controls?” he asked. “Stop being irrational and deal with the problem.”
“I left the device on the wall mounts with the crawlers. It’s gone.”
“You left it on the crawlers? Why didn’t you keep it in your room, like everyone else? Are you asking for trouble?”
The hallway beyond my door filled with the clank and slam of metal. I ducked down into the corner of my room and held the communicator against my lips. “I’m asking for help,” I whispered. “I think… I think they’re going to kill me.”
“What?” Dwyer asked, half-laughing, half-baffled. “Why would you ever think that? They’re programmed for picking up rocks. Not killing people. Picking up rocks. Say it with me.”
“You don’t understand. I yelled at one right beforehand. Marx broke up with Rose, and I even kicked him. I’m sure he’s the one that got off his mount and attacked the others.”
Dwyer said nothing.
I knew he thought I was crazy. Hell, I thought I was going crazy, but what other explanation was there? I racked my brain for an answer.
“Or maybe,” I continued, “maybe Jones brought back an alien lifeform when he was down planet-side. Maybe it’s a murderous creature that hid in the machinery.”
Dwyer cleared his throat. When he spoke, he did so in a forced calm. “You’re really worrying me,” he said. “The crawlers are scanned and decontaminated after every planet-side run. None of the machines brought aliens back on the ship. You’re living in a fantasy world.”
Something heavy slammed on the door to my room, denting the metal and shaking pictures off the shelves mounted to the walls. I stood, my legs unsteady, and another slam followed the first.
And then another.
The door had several dents, each worse than the last.
“What’s going on? What is that? Is something happening to the ship?”
“He’s trying to get in,” I whispered. “He’s coming for me.”
“Who? Who’s coming for you?”
The door to my room cracked open and the tips of the planet-crawler’s claws squeezed between the two sides. Red light shone into the room in a straight line, cutting my room in half, growing larger as the robot pried open the door. The screech of tortured machinery sounded like the ship was suffering—crying out for the torment to stop.
My heart beat at a fierce rate and my breath came in fleeting bursts. Once the door was half-open, I saw that I was correct. Marx’s swivel camera turned to peek in through the two-foot wide crack, honing in on me and never looking away.
I needed to get out of here.
Without a second’s hesitation, I ran for the door and slid out, rolling under Marx in the process. His massive stabilizing legs slammed down around me, inches from my head and side, but I managed to dodge and then stand.
The ominous red glow of the hallway greeted me like the gates of hell. I could barely see as I rushed forward, my panic consuming my every thought.
“Emma! Tell me what’s happening! What’s going on?”
The slam of metal-on-metal intensified. Marx was getting closer. He was getting faster. And the entire ship was built with a planet-crawler’s proportions in mind. Where would I go? What would I do?
I ran into the tiny kitchen and shut the door. Then I crossed the small space and exited out the only other door. The ship wasn’t a vast open expanse. There wasn’t much room at all, actually. I waited on the other side of the door.
“I need help, Dwyer,” I said into the communicator, my breath light and raspy. “What am I going to do?”
“The planet-crawlers are trying to kill you? Is that really what’s going on?”
“Holy hell,” he whispered. After a long moment of silence—so long that I focused in on the metal slams of the crawler walking around the kitchen—he finally exhaled. “Okay, listen. Get into the maintenance shaft. It should take the crawlers a long time to reach you there. I’ll turn my ship around and head for you. I should be there in—”
The rapid slam of metal filled the ship with clanging loud enough to disorient me. Jones rounded the corner, wobbling a bit after the turn, and then dashed for me, his four legs working in perfect time. I tried to run—I really did—but it was like my body lagged behind my thoughts, slowing with each movement.
And before I reached the end of the hall, Marx appeared in front of me, rounding the far corner, illuminated by the red lights emanating up from the floor.
I was in a hallway, trapped from the front and back by spider-like robots, the shadows playing tricks on my thoughts. I swear their camera eyes flickered with intelligence.
“I’ve always had a crush on you, Dwyer,” I said into the communicator. “And tell my family I love them.”
“Emma? Did one of the robots catch you? Tell me what’s—”
Marx rushed forward, his grip-claw feet curled and sharp. Jones clambered toward me—and then around me—meeting Marx a mere foot from where I stood, clashing with the other crawler in a full-frontal slam.
I fell backward and hit my elbows on the grating of the floor. Water welled in the corners of my eyes as I scrambled back, shocked. Jones struck at Marx’s body, aiming for the connectors on the legs.
“Jones is trying to save me,” I said into the communicator, my voice practically breathless. “He’s fighting Marx.”
Sparks flew when Jones and Marx clashed, their duralumin bodies tough and hard to dismantle. Each blow rocked the hallway with their power and fortitude.
“That’s impossible! It’s not like they have personalities or, or… or even the programming to fight!”
The two planet-crawlers slammed together, causing the whole hallway to fill with the sound of scratching metal, almost as if they were answering Dwyer’s statement with one of their own. And when Marx stabbed with his claws, he added to the ear-shattering screeches and punctured a thin panel on Jones’s body.
“Oh no,” I muttered. “He’s losing.”
“Who? Jones? Who is a robot, right? That’s what’s going on?”
Marx slammed Jones to the floor and then grabbed the swivel camera. In one brutal yank, he blinded Jones, causing the crawler to tumble around. Marx then crushed the camera and shoved it up into his own storage compartment. I heard the grind of the sentiment analyzer—a device used for crushing rocks—as it tore the camera apart.
“He lost,” I whispered.
“Then what’re you doing?” Dwyer yelled. “Run! While you still have time!”
I turned and ran, but everything felt so surreal. If I had known that giving my crawlers complicated back histories would turn them against me, I would have pretended they were all pacifists. But I didn’t have time to regret. I focused all my willpower on finding a hatch to the maintenance shaft. I knew there was one in the power bay. I headed straight for it.
“I can be there in less than an hour,” Dwyer said. “You just have to stay safe until then.”
I nodded, though I knew he couldn’t see me. Halfway to the power bay door, however, I felt sluggish and heavy, like I had gained fifty pounds in a fraction of a second. When I reached the door, it was intense and only getting worse.
I knew this feeling.
With a ragged breath, I said, “Marx is messing with the gravity generator.”
“What? No. That can’t be. The crawlers aren’t capable of that.”
“I feel it. It’s getting worse.”
“Safety regulations prevent the gravity ratio from going too high. You can make it to the shaft, Emma. Keep going.”
I ran into the power bay and slipped on the puddle of cleaning fluid pooling across the floor. The increased gravity made the fall ten times worse. I hit my hip and wrist and then crumpled. Pain flooded me, but panic washed away all other emotion. When I attempted to stand, it was like trying to do a pushup after a set of 100. My arm burned. My body shook. Nothing worked.
“I can’t make it,” I murmured into the communicator. The added gravity heightened the stomp of the crawler. Marx was down the hall, taking his time, like he knew I wasn’t going anywhere.
“You need to get into the maintenance shaft,” Dwyer said.
“I can’t. I just can’t. It’s too much.”
“You said you had a crush on me?”
I bit my tongue and held back a shout of anger. Now wasn’t the time for that!
“I swear, once I get you off that ship, we’re taking our rigs back to the main station and we’re quitting. We’re going to enjoy life. No one will tell us what to do. Every date will be a honeymoon.” He chuckled, his voice thick with emotion. “But we’re splitting the tab fifty-fifty because I respect that you’re a strong independent woman, and I’m secure enough to know I can’t pay for it all.”
I half-laughed and half-sobbed, on the verge of tears. Dwyer could always make me laugh.
“You need to get into the maintenance shaft,” he repeated.
Nodding, I held my breath and dragged myself across the floor. My flashlight was the only source of light as I flailed about, and I was half-tempted to discard it, but I needed to find the hatch. I didn’t get far before I felt the tremors of Marx’s walking.
He entered the power bay at a casual pace. I scrambled to move faster, sliding around in the cleaning fluids like a drunkard incapable of gross motor skills. The planet-crawler could have reached me in a half second, but Marx circled around, toying with me.
“It’s over, Dwyer,” I said despite my paralyzing dread. “I’m so sorry.”
Marx grabbed my leg and pulled me closer. He was going to rip me apart—quartering me into chunks and sending me through the grinder of his sentiment analyzer. And there was nothing I could do about it.
“Emma? What’s going on? Emma!”
“RECHARGING FINISHED,” the computer announced.
Lights flooded the power bay from all angles. I blinked back the sudden blindness and rubbed at my eyes. Without the impenetrable darkness of space, the ship didn’t look quite as gloomy.
I stopped and stared at Marx. He was holding my leg off the ground but otherwise unmoving.
Then I glanced down at my hand. I was holding the manual controller for the planet-crawlers—not the ship communicator. White noise settled over my mind as I took in my surroundings. The gravity was normal, but Rose and the two wall mounts were still busted.
I pushed the buttons on the manual controller and had Marx release me. I stood, unharmed, and brushed myself off.
Each new memory fell into place, like the light brought back a part of me I hadn’t known was missing. I had destroyed Rose with the manual controls. I had damaged my own bedroom door. I had orchestrated Jones and Marx’s fight in the hallway. And after each event, I had acted out the part of the unaware worker, caught in a dramatic space epic about killer robots.
I walked around the lifeless planet-crawler and headed for the tools mounted to the wall. I grabbed the actual ship-to-ship communicator—now that it was fully charged—and held it close to my mouth. With silence as my only companion, I clicked it on to the nearest company ship.
The communicator blinked on, and a man’s voice began with, “This is maintenance worker alpha-8976, Dwyer Duibhir.”
“Hey, Dwyer,” I muttered. “It’s me.”
“Emma? Wow, I sure am glad to hear from you. It’s been weeks since I’ve had a proper conversation.”
“Loneliness can really mess with a person’s mind, let me tell you. I’ve had the craziest dreams lately. I’d tell you everything in painful detail, but I’m sure it violates company policy to talk about anything halfway interesting.”
I glanced around the room, my gaze focusing in on all the destruction. The feelings and memories of the event flooded me. That short timeframe of recharging had had everything. Jealousy. Mystery. Fear. Rivalries. Fights to the death. True love’s confession. Bittersweet goodbyes. Heart-pounding exhilaration. It had been the most fun—and terrifying—experience since I had entered deep space.
“Hello?” Dwyer said. “That was a joke. You haven’t forgotten how to laugh, have you?”
Despite being a victim to delirium, I might have chosen to do it all over again.
“Dwyer,” I intoned. “I think I have a problem.”