For this week’s short list, the GROTESQUE PORTRAIT contest, we’ll be releasing one story a day for the duration. Enjoy our first, by long time contestant Joey To.
The Abomination // A Science Fiction Short Story by Joey To
“Docking procedure initiated,” announced Athena.
Abe barely glanced at his droid seated next to him. He mostly kept his eyes ahead on the looming station. Around the cylindrical bulk revolved three blades; their solar sails glimmered intermittently in the faint light from the nearby star.
“Structure intact,” said Athena, “and the mag-emitter is currently on idle.”
Abe shivered as he gripped a bulkhead and yanked himself up. He sneezed as he speared through the cold dark corridor. Athena tailed him, holding a briefcase. The only light source were the holograms of the star which flickered on as they glided by each terminal.
Abe sniffed. “You have a wipe?”
“No, those are not big enough for your nose,” answered Athena plainly.
“Very funny.” Abe then nodded at a holographic projection, the orange swirls on the star’s surface slow and fluid. “Keep an eye on the chromosphere.”
“Of course,” responded Athena.
“This damn place is the same as last time,” Abe muttered as clanks echoed.
He stretched out an arm and grabbed a bulkhead. His legs swung around but he stopped himself at a terminal. He thumbed a button, a station schematic appearing. The inner shaft was beginning to spin faster than the outer shaft connected to the sails.
Abe planted both feet on the wall, bent his knees and launched himself forward. “We need to get to the core now.”
Athena followed, activating the lights on her shoulder. Up ahead was a blast door, the panel beside it glowing red.
“Athena, get the gravity back online while I get the door.”
Abe froze a mere few paces inside. The inner shaft of the mag-emitter was visibly increasing in speed as its soft whine increased in pitch. Through a window, the star seemed to brighten and several tiny flames licked into space.
“They are hardly flares,” said Athena. “Shall we proceed?”
Abe raised an eyebrow, then clenched his jaw. He strode into the next compartment. Scant beams of starlight streaked through the small square windows on the walls and domed ceiling. He squinted at the tall figure at the centre. Even in near darkness, he could feel it staring down at him. Athena remained several paces behind, the briefcase flat on one hand, the other ready to open it on command.
“Come closer,” said a mechanical grating voice.
The outline was lanky but somewhat feminine with narrow shoulders and a relatively wider pelvis. Innumerable conduits connected to it and the base on which it rested.
“Solar activity increasing,” said Athena.
Abe momentarily glanced out a window, the star now yellow with glistening eddies.
The room brightened, the oily black metallic plates covering the figure gleamed hard… and the face shone: dull grey skin, sunken cheeks, sharp nose, big black eyes, thin black lips and more tubes running to its head and neck. Abe shuddered but gritted his teeth to hide it. Or tried. Still, he approached.
He looked up at the face but pointed to the briefcase. “We developed a new device which can run this station.”
“You know I cannot leave,” it answered, its black eyes trained on him. “I must regulate the energy storage during the star’s dormancy period and control the emitter when the star awakens. I have the knowledge—”
“Knowledge?! It is that pursuit which has cursed you. It’s why you’re here!” Abe didn’t realize he had actually shouted until he heard his own echo.
The black eyes were unblinking. The lips curled slightly. Almost a smile. “You know the abomination is… unique, perceptive. Mere computers lack the power to maintain its prison.”
“This’ll grind away at you, ruin you…” Abe uttered, knowing it was too late to reverse that.
Despite the sickly sunken cheeks, she smiled. Warmly. “The abomination is my responsibility or else the universe will suffer.” Then she lifted her gaze to Athena. “Take care of… my son.”
“Course set, activating shields,” said Athena.
As the cockpit window dimmed, the star’s explosive flares still lit the ship… then a blazing white beam shot from the main cylindrical section of the station, striking the glaring star.
Abe leaned into his seat, hugged his knees to his chest and pictured his mother’s smile.