by Shiawasena Ryokō-sha Visiting aunt’s carriage fully seen off, Lord Dirk ran to the rose gardens, blind with six kinds of tension, so he could be alone. Only once his ears filled with the sound of birdsong and the crunch of pebbles underfoot did he let himself give in to the full-body trembling he’d fought […]
A more thorough array of whining sirens, blaring horns, flashing lights, electronic beeps, and spasmodically flickering screens could hardly have been imagined, Doctor Blake thought, scowling at the chaos enveloping the main drive room. Not only was it the third time this week, it was the second time in the middle of his sleep shift, and if this kept up for much longer he’d hardly get an hour’s decent sleep a night.
But now? Not the time to be angry. Being up at all hours to keep the space station’s computers in order was his job. He needed to stay professional. Squashing down his resentment, Blake tapped his code into the access hatch and gingerly slid into the small tunnel. Despite his broad shoulders, the tube was hardly a tough squeeze; the little, semiantiquated station he called home was a mishmash of eras and building codes and if he couldn’t manage this, he’d barely be able to get around thenormal corridors.
The sudden bend from horizontal to vertical was always a bit of a challenge, though. Intellectually, he understood why they decided to seat the SysAdmin’s booth above the workstation – it gave a better view of the control panels, and made it harder for security cameras to point in in the event of a breach, but – but – oh well, he’d already gotten there. In one long, fluid motion, he crawled around the bend, stood, and pulled himself up into the crow’s nest.
Settling into the mass of cushions he’d left there in case of a night just like this, he powered up the interface. “Hey there, Cyrus. What’s with the light show?”
“…Like all good stories, tonight we’ve started and ended in a warm, dark place. That was another tale from the Deep Library, and this is your host, Cal Kassab, telling you it’s about time to go to bed.”
Triumphantly, Cal switches the output over to the queued ending track. He waits for a moment, listening to the familiar music drifting from his headphones– “Chords from the Depths of SPACE,” or some similar new-age-y BS, but he liked it anyway, and, well, it fit his attempts at recreating the Twilight Zone in a college radio station – then leans back, satisfied. His too-small desk chair squeals a little in protest, unhappy with the shift of weight. From their hanger on the front of the control panel, the headphones still emit a tinny version of the music playing. Cal lets his head hang back: too tired to switch it off, too tired to admit that having a radio slot that ends at half past twelve in the morning was a bad idea, and definitely too tired to bother going home and taking the advice he’d just given his listeners.
All is still and quiet. The tinny ‘sounds of space’ switch over to a tinny Beyoncé song. Resigned to the fact he’s going to have to walk the cold, dark half-mile back to his dorm, Cal stands up and grabs his coat from its hook.
The phone rings.