CHAPTER TWOThe Asteroid
Charlie sits in the helm, squinting at graphs and math in the dark. After a few minutes, he sits up suddenly, and hisses through his teeth.
“Oh fuck this for a lark.”
He spins through some menus, and pulls up a camera feed from the front of the craft. He stretches the window to its largest, enables flex correction, makes it a public projection, and pastes it against the cold metal walls of the helm. The rest of the interfaces fall away. The walls turns black for a second, and then, suddenly, Charlie is floating above his chair, surrounded on all sides by the bare expanse of space. It suddenly occurs to him that this is what it would be like right before his blood started to boil in his veins. He pulls himself together. Asteroid. Tether.
A sound behind him startles him. His XO has drifted into the room, and gasped.
She laughs, a little shakily.
“Thought for a second there I was going to wake up in a resurrection casket.”
“Il Bell. Shouldn’t you be in decel already? We’re going to be pulling about five thousand gravities here in a few minutes.”
“Thought I’d see if you need any help, Captain.”
“Is everyone secured?”
“Yes, sir. I’ve had a couple of crewmen search the cabins for loose items, and place them in the buffers. The corpsicles have been placed in suspension. We’re prepared for hull breach. All passengers are accounted for in hard decel.”
“Glad to hear it.”
She glances around the expanse of space.
“We’ll never even see the asteroid.”
“At this speed, Ill Bell, we could miss a star, if we tried.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“Sure. Work through this for me and let me know if we’re going to get torn to bits when we hit.”
She casts off the wall, and sets herself floating slightly beside his chair, foot hooked in one of the hand holds. He hands her a loose matrix of data, which fades out of visibility as her own rig acquires it. Her hands scroll rapidly through, working professionally through every possible permutation of the coming scenario.
His interfaces have started to creep back in front, so he drags them into full view, and finds what he’s looking for. He clears everything away except for a single floating tile. It’s floating, red and blinking, a few inches from his hand. Then he takes a small, blinking glyph of a clock and sets it beside the tile. Bell turns to him.
“This looks like it’ll work. All the anchors are on solid graphene struts. We might lose a bearing, but I doubt it. These ships are built to last. It’s only for a second, anyway.”
“Thank you, Il Bell. Any second n- ah.”
The clock finishes its countdown and begins to flash, sounds a small buzzer. He flicks it, and the glyph dissolves into a spiral cloud of fading light, and then vanishes entirely.
“Here we go.”
He reaches out, and calmly taps the tile. It stops blinking, rises into the air, flips over, and vanishes. A dozen windows and readouts pop up. Out in the dark to the side of the helm, from somewhere out of sight, a pale gray shape, illuminated by the external lights, emerges. It’s a few hundred pale graphene spears, a thin braided cord trailing out behind each one like hair underwater. Further back, he can just make out the cords wrapping together into a much thicker cable, anchored to the internal structure of the Burgundy.
The spears slowly spread, looking like some graphene octopus, a dozen spears aiming towards an asteroid that they won’t be passing for five more minutes. He scans the depths of space, trying to catch some glimpse of it, and then feels silly.
He runs the batch script that’ll handle the immediate post-spin calibrations and leaves it idling.
He turns to Bell.
“We should go.”
“Aye.”He swings to the bottom of the chair, and launches himself down the hallway. He doesn’t take the elevator up, but instead takes a side passage into the engineering decks. He flies around the engine assembly, taking a considerable dose of hard radiation in the process. If he gets cancer later, so be it. He’s in a hurry.
Here, the ship does not pretend to be other than it is: there is no wood paneling, no faux-plaster walls, no rich carpets, and absolutely no mood lighting. Only tight corridors with ladders on every surface, flat metal walls, and dull, tasteless wall lights. It’s comforting to see things as they really are.
He gets onto a small metal elevator with Bell, upside down, and switches it on. He passes up three decks before he gets to the hard deceleration bay. Shelf after shelf of blue caskets are mounted in the walls. He moves quickly. There’s not much gravity here, and he maneuvers mostly using the hooks on the walls. He finds the two remaining empty cells at the end of the row. He gestures to Bell and smiles.
“Crew first, Il Bell.”
She salutes, and climbs inside, pulling the door shut behind her. He sees her vaguely through the blurry glass on the front removing her uniform and crawling into the body lock. He turns around, and checks his clock. Three minutes left.
Instead of climbing directly into his cell, he turns and retreats down the long corridor towards a particular cell he noted on the way over. He finds it. The glowing label floating over it says, simply,
He pulls out the sidearm tucked into his belt, and inspects it. He holds it out at arm’s length, disables the safety, and points it at the front plate of the casket. If he starts shooting now, he can put a dozen bullets through her before he’ll have to leave. He holds the gun. There’d be a lot of evidence, of course. No passing it off as an accident. Still, there’s a certain appeal to the idea of solving the whole problem, right now, in thirty seconds.
Charlie lowers the gun. This isn’t the time. Not now. Not now, but… soon. He turns, re-engages the safety, and pulls himself back down the short, curved corridor. He moves past the elevator, and the shafts to the corpsicle and deadhead decks, to the last empty hard decel pod. Just ninety seconds left. He swings himself inside and shuts the door behind him.
• • • — — — • • •
The human body can survive about two hundred gravities of acceleration for extremely short time periods (for example, in a severe automobile accident). As the Burgundy’s grapple sinks into asteroid “Queen Elizabeth A117”, tightens in a fraction of a second, pivots the craft, and detaches, sending the Burgundy in a new direction, the passengers (and, indeed, any loose object inside the craft) will experience about five thousand gravities of acceleration. This would usually have the side of effect of turning all of the passengers, in their natural state, into a kind of watery soup.Fortunately, this has occurred to both Charlie and the designers of the Burgundy, and both have made preparations. The Burgundy is made primarily out of structural diamond and graphene (covered with steel and aluminum for appearance’s sake), and can easily survive virtually any stress that it is subjected to. The hard deceleration bay is meant to prevent the passengers from being killed by forces such as the ones they are about to encounter. In an effort to increase the structural integrity of the human form twenty five times, the caskets in the deceleration bay take several precautions.
First, it must be understood that a living human, simply put, cannot survive the process. At five thousand gravities, internal fluid pressures rapidly exceed the structural integrity of normal flesh, and the body simply implodes in on itself like a waterballoon being struck by a fighter jet.
Thus, the casket begins by killing the passengers with drugs and electric shock. Once they are dead, their blood is removed, and replaced with a compound of chilled alcohol. After the body temperature has become suitably cold, the casket begins to fill with more pressurized fluid. As the pressure increases, the natural of the tissues inside change. In this state, rather than dealing with a squishy human body, we are instead considering an object which has substantially more in common with a block of refined steel. The acceleration has next to no effect.
Now, obviously, once this is over, having put a living human in, you will get out one very well-preserved human cadaver. Well, that’s what would happen, if the passengers were entirely human…
• • • — — — • • •
Charlie wakes up gasping. He’s lying in the pod, feeling mildly dead. Two electrode prongs release themselves from his chest. Two IV arm cuffs withdraw. The last few drops of alcohol filters out of the casket, leaving the pod stinking of ethanol. He can feel stirrings of heat deep within his torso as a number of foreign gene sequences quietly revive his cells from their hibernatory trance. His skin is numb, and cold, and his fingernails itch.His interface switches itself back on. He grabs the clock app and peers at it. Well, it’s been three hours. They probably made it. He rolls over, and starts to get out before realizing that he’s naked. He shuts the door again, opens the drawer to remove his clothes, and hurriedly dresses himself in the dark. He pulls the door open and gets out. His hands are shaking involuntarily, and he feels like he’s going to throw up a lung. He really, really, really hates cryonics. This is how crappy he feels after being a corpse for three hours. The poor bastards down in the cryo bay have been dead for months.
He shakes his head. It’s generally a bad sign when you have to die to survive a maneuver.
It’s too bright. He squints around bay, feeling his head starting to throb. He sees his XO sitting on the floor under her pod, staring at the wall. He walks unsteadily towards her.
She jumps slightly, and pulls herself to her feet. She pulls up her interface.
“Yes, sir. Just a little shaken up. You want me to defrost everybody else?”
Charlie winces. Great as the temptation to share his pain is, he doesn’t need any more trouble. Besides, he has an idea.“Yeah, but keep them under. Give them IV fluids and painkillers and give them about six hours to get warmed up. Let’s wake them up gently.”
She punches through an invisible interface in a blur of hand gestures.
“Aye aye, sir.”
He turns and glances around the ship. They don’t seem to be dying. Yet. He notices that Bell has finished.
“Well, let’s go see how it went.”
Charlie doesn’t return to the helm. There’s a console with partial access in the engineering area right over the engine, and he goes there instead. Once there, he pulls up the helm console. Three or four interface groups turn red and vanish because he doesn’t have permission to access them without a direct connection. He doesn’t need them, though. He checks the log of the last three hours. It looks like everything went off without a hitch. He coughs, feeling the back of his throat ache from dry. Well, it didn’t go any worse than he had expected, anyway.
Just to be sure, he checks their angle and speed. There’s a brief pause as the computer locates known stars and extrapolates angle the angle. Then there’s a blueshifting analysis and a speed readout. Almost exactly as predicted. He smiles.
Then he coughs again.
“I need a drink of water.”
They take the elevator from the central shaft up to the dining hall. He manages to coax the cullinary assembler in the corner into extruding two glasses of warm water, and then he collapses at a table. He pushes one towards Bell, who drains it in a single gulp. He looks at her. Her skin sticks to her bones like putty. She looks terrible.
She rises to attention.
“Go take a hot bath. Be back on duty in two hours.”
“Thank you, sir.”
She walks carefully off in the direction of the elevator. Charlie finishes his water and waits for her to vanish, and then he stands up. Two hours, then. Time to solve a problem.
He walks down the hall in the opposite direction into the first class staterooms. He finds Blanchet’s room without much trouble, swipes his key at the lock, and slips inside. The room is neat, of course. All the personal effects are secured in compression foam floor boxes to prevent them from becoming relativistic projectiles. The room is really entirely generic. A blank, empty hotel room. Except…
Except for the owl. He blinks. It’s a tiny wooden owl on the bed post. That can’t be right, the crewmen should have removed it. Even if they hadn’t, the acceleration force should have embedded it into a wall. Must not be wood. He wonders how she attached it to the bed post. He suddenly becomes aware of the quiet ticking of his clock application, and turns away from the owl. He can resolve the mystery in more detail when she’s dead.
He checks her things first. He uses his key to open the panel on the floor. The acceleration foam has already dissolved, leaving the items resting on the bottom. A number of fine, non-fabricated dresses (though not as many as he would have expected), a jewelry box, a few books, a small computer, a pair of shoes, a small black box that looks like a ring case, a purse, and a few other odds and ends. He pulls on his office’rs gloves, and riffles through it quickly.
After a few seconds, he finds a hard metal object in the dress. It’s a gun. Not a lady’s gun, either. It’s a big black thing with a wide barrel. He carefully picks it up, examines it, and replaces it. He’s nearly given up, when he checks the jewelery box again and realizes that it’s not deep enough. A bit of further probing reveals a small depressing in the velvet. He pushes his finger into it, releasing a catch, and allowing him to pull the bottom out. At the bottom is a small silver pill case. He opens it, and examines the small green and white pills at the bottom. Interesting. Then he carefully returns everything to its original positions, and turns his attention to killing her.
He finds the wall closest to the rear of the ship. Yes, that ought to be right. He works from left to right, tugging on each faux-wooden panel and shelf until he reaches the sixth panel, which he manages to pop loose when he yanks on it, revealing a small access hatch.
He removes a screwdriver from his pocket, unscrews the cover, and sets it aside. Inside is a nest of wiring. After a moment’s thought, he pulls up the ship’s schematic on his interface, finds the appropriate wiring diagram, and examines it. Ah, the motherload. From here, he could disable humidity, oxygen recycling, temperature, the works. But he’s not interested in tampering with life support.
He locates the green wire marked ‘hard lock’ on the diagram, runs his finger down it, and gives it a sharp tug. The end of the wire pops loose. A small light turns red. He leaves it hanging, screws the cover back on, and returns the wooden panel into its slot. He stands up, glances at the owl, and then leaves.
After he gets out, he finds the pressure sensor near the base of the door. He gets down on his hands and knees, and sucks on it, hard. There’s a hiss as the vacuum lock is established, but not the thump of the hard locks engaging. Charlie smiles, and removes his mouth, spitting rug fuzz onto the ground. After twenty seconds, there’s a whisper of air as the vacuum lock releases. Charlie turns and walks back to the dining hall to get ready for the thawing passengers.
• • • — — — • • •Charlie is sitting at a table at the bar. He has a glass of synthetic rum in his hand, which he has been sipping sparingly from for the last half hour. He can’t afford to be drunk just now. He’s sitting at the table with Blanchet and the Atwood couple, Derek and Melissa. Derek is wearing a youngish body, perhaps nineteen or twenty. His wife’s body is a bit older, maybe early thirties. God knows how old they really are. They both look a little older than usual, in any case. Everyone in the bar looks a little hagard, in fact, mostly from their brief foray into death.
Waking up the easy way still isn’t easy.
He’s been keeping an eye on Blanchet for the last two hours So far, she’s made no sign of much of anything other than polite banter. He turns his attention to Derek, who’s talking.
“And that was it for me on Los Dei. I think they’d shoot me if I ever tried to go back. After that, I worked for one of the transit liners for a while. I ended up living on Trantor for a few years, and I brought Melissa here along with me. Now my contract’s up, and it’s time to go spend my ill gotten gains.”
He smiles, and Charlie chuckles politely. He clearly thinks he’s being wickedly clever. He must be young. Maybe seventy or eighty. Charlie sits up, and takes another sip of rum. Just as the warmth hits his stomach, Melissa speaks up.
“What about you, Om Captain? Madam Blanchet was on vacation, and Derek and I were on business trips. What brought you out to the far hubward colonies?”
Charlie coughs slightly, then forces a smile. He keeps Blanchet in his periferal vision as he turns to examine the couple. He keeps his voice pleasant.
“I was doing some consulting work for the government on New Damascus.”
Derek leans forward. He holds his liquor well, but Charlie can see the way he holds himself, the shape of his fingers, his breathing; he’s had too much to drink. He should back off, but he doesn’t.
“Ooh, sounds interesting. Done a bit of consulting myself. What kind of consulting?”
Charlie allows his smile to tighten a degree.
“I apologize, Om Atwood. I couldn’t tell you the details.”
Derek looks surprised. Charlie feels himself growing more irritated by the second.
“Oh, you could tell me, but then you’d have to kill me?”
Charlie loses his temper.
“No, the Crown has people for that.”
There’s a brief silence. He glances at Blanchet. She hasn’t reacted at all, but he thinks he gets a little flicker from her eyes. She could hardly be blamed if she did. After all, she is one of those people. He isn’t quite sure why he’s baiting her like this. Probably a childish sense of vengeance, but it does make him feel better, however briefly.
Time for damage control. He glances back at the couple, and laughs expansively. After a half a second, the others join in. And, if the laughter is a little too loud, and lasts a little too long? Well, so be it.
• • • — — — • • •
Four hours later, Charlie sits on his bed, contemplating his options. They’re way too far away from the Ilium colony to establish a laser link. He’s fired off several radio pulses, but doesn’t really expect to hear back for another few days, if ever.If it’s nothing serious, then his plan is to have the old captain up and running again, and jump ship. If it is bad, then the script he’s writing now will dispose of the spy, and he’ll flee once he gets to the New Kingdom.
He adds in another term in the script. As it stands, it’ll run in the background, constantly checking security logs. When he activates it, it’ll wait until Blanchet is in her room and there’s nobody in the corridor. Then the script will do two things: first, it’ll open the unit airlock, which’ll open the whole deck to hard vacuum. At that point, the defective hard lock on Blanchet’s door should fail to engage, flushing the bitch into space. Then the script will overwrite the system boot sector with noise and delete itself. It’ll look like a computer crash and an unfortunate accident.
He finishes the script, adds it into a minor system file, and folds it up deep inside a hidden drive sector in the Unix kernel, then allows it to run. Charlie sits back, closes the interface group, and smiles. Blanchet will die. When the time is right, all he has to do is activate the script. They can try to resurrect her from the live archive, but he can deal with that when it happens. There are a dozen ways to sabotage a resurrection casket. They’re finicky machines at the best of times.
He stands up slowly. He ought to check on Captain Adam’s status. He calls up the shipboard security feed, and locates Captain Adam’s chip. It’s down in the engineering deck. He decides to pay the engineering folks a visit.
He stands up, slowly. Then, on a whim, he reaches into his pocket, picks up a small red tab, and sets it against the airlock door. He pushes his thumb against it. After a second, a small consensus project of a circle appears around it and flashes twice. The word ‘armed’ appears floating above it, then the tab turns gunmetal gray to blend in with the wall.
He smiles. If she can get into his room after that, she deserves to kill him. He just hope she doesn’t tell anyone on board the ship before he gets a chance to off her. He has to assume that everyone back in the New Kingdom is aware of what he did. He’ll have to get a new identity as soon as possible. A new body, a new face, new papers. The door comes open when he tugs on it, and he steps inside, carefully sealing it behind him, and hearing the click.
Then he swipes his card and taps a floating icon to engage the hard locks. Just in case. He sets off down the hallway. The crew deck is on the same level as the first class passenger deck, but it’s separated by a series of long. heavily-secured hallways bridging empty space. In the event of a passenger uprising, it’s possible to seal off the crew deck entirely and survive inside indefinitely.
Charlie gets through the airlocks into the passenger area, and heads to the elevator. As he does so, he suddenly becomes aware of someone coming up behind him. Without looking back or altering his stride, he allows his left hand to drift to his hip. He’s wearing a holstered sidearm, and he can get it out and armed in a few seconds. With his other hand, moving as little as possible, he calls up the security interface, finds the camera on the hallway, and pulls up the feed. In it, he sees himself in miniature walking along the hallway, with an older man behind him. One of the passengers. He relaxes slightly, and lets his hand drift from his gun.
He slows slightly, allowing the other man to overtake him. The face is familiar. It’s the veteran. Hyde, he thinks. The man comes up beside him, and says in a dry voice, without looking at him,
“Colonel Hyde. What has you up at this early hour?”
“Early? I thought it was late.”
“Not as of half an hour ago.”
“Ah well, time aboard a starship is a thin pretense at the best of times. Thinner when scotch is involved.”
“Truer words were never spoken. Your niece is asleep?”
“In my cabin. I have my Turing Persona watching her. It’ll alert me if she needs me.”
“She seems a fine girl.”
There’s a brief silence, and then the Colonel turns around and glances at Charlie.
“Captain, I must confess that my being here in this hallway was not entirely accidental. I was hoping I might speak with you in private. Do you have a few minutes?”
“Of course, Colonel. Will here do, or is there somewhere you’d like to go?”
“Here is as good as anywhere. And – please – Om is fine. I’ve not been Colonel for some time, and it’s not something I like to be reminded of.”
“Of course, Om Hyde. What can I do for you?”
“I have a concern about one of my fellow passengers.”
Charlie raises an eyebrow.
The Colonel breaks a wide smile and laughs. “No, no. Pennycut is a monstrous bitch, there’s not question about that- but her kind I can deal with. I’m old, but I’m still a bit harder to kill than some poor gook girl. Actually, I’m more concerned about Rachel Evans.”
Charlie blinks in surprise
“Evans? The girl?”
“It’s not quite what you think. Do you know how old she is?”
Charlie turned to stare at him.
“Sixteen? And she’s travelling alone? Across the Xiansuo gap?”
“My concern is that she isn’t travelling alone.”
“What do you mean?”
“I know the girl’s father, Robert Evans. He’s a dependable man, but he has some rough friends. I know the girl, too. She’s a sweet girl, but not strong willed, and something about her is off this time. I’m concerned that she may have picked up someone who may be using her, sexually or otherwise. I thought for a while it might be Blanchet, because there’s something off about her too, but now I’m just not sure.”
“What do you want from me, Om Hyde?”
“First, let me say that I understand the detour entirely. You’re bound under crown law, and you’re doing a noble thing in offering your services to those in need. I don’t hold it against you. However, I fear that the longer Evans spends away from home, the more danger she’s in. I’d like you to keep an eye on her, and see if you notice anything unusual, or if she seems to be in trouble.”
“Of course, Om Hyde. Thank you very much for bringing it to my attention. I’ll do my best to keep her out of harm’s way. I’ll mention it to Captain Adams when he returns to duty as well.”
“Thank you, Captain. I appreciate it. If you find anything out, or need my services, please let me know.”
“In that case, I think that’s all I had to say. Good morning, Captain.”
“Good Morning, Om Hyde.”
Hyde turns and sets off in the direction of the bar. When he’s out of sight, Charlie turns around and gets into the elevator. He takes it up, deeper into the ship, to the engineering deck, while dwelling on the problem of Rachel Evans. She’s in a bad position, to be sure. Something isn’t quite sitting right, though, and he figures out what it is at about the same time as the elevator arrives. It’s her body. She’s sixteen, but her body looks at least twenty five. She doesn’t seem to have been in a position to die recently – so, where did she get the new body?
Contemplating this dilemma, he steps out of the elevator with a strong stride, and nearly bounces himself into the low ceiling. Ah yes. Not much gravity here.
He steadies himself on the floor or the rebound and moves towards the group of engineers in one corner. They turn. Two of them salute, the other three just shuffle uncomfortably at attention. Charlie glances at them. Well, he’s the interim Captain, and they don’t know him. He can hardly expect much more. He glances at the chief engineer, one of the ones who’d saluted, John Churchill. His expression is polite and respectful, but not friendly.
“Il Churchill. You boys are up late.”
“Sir. The Burgundy never sleeps, sir. Neither do we.”
“Do you have a moment?”
“Of course. Just give me one moment, please.”
He turns to the others.
“Gentlemen, I think you can handle this. I want those valves shiny by the time I get back. If you have to go out there with a pressure suit and a toothbrush, do it. Just make sure you’re backed up. Go.”
They vanish deeper into the guts of the Burgundy, and Charlie isn’t sure whether they’re more anxious to get to work or away from him. Churchill turns to him, hands clasped behind his back.
“What can I do for you, sir?”
Charlie forces a pleasant smile.
“I just came down to check on the status of Captain Adam’s chip.”
“Come with me. I’ll show you what we’ve done.”
He turns, and leads Charlie to a small clean table. On it, resting on the shiny white suspension gel, sits the disassembled chip, and several instruments. The chip is about an inch square, wafer thin. They’ve removed the top and bottom interface grids, and opened it up, reveling a tiny black processor, a black memory cell, and an eight-layer memristor chip, which has been carefully pealed apart and laid out.
“Physically, this chip is fine. It had a bad port and the encryption socked was cooked, so we replaced those, but there’s nothing wrong with the chip itself. It just gives erratic readings when we try to plug it in.”
“So it’s not Captain Adams anymore?”
“Well… maybe. It’s hard to say. A relatively minor level of data corruption can lead to radically different readings, but not much change in behavior. The brain has regulatory mechanisms for that sort of thing. It’s worth plugging it in and seeing what happens. Worst case, they can merge the imprint with the intact one in the live archive once we get to the NK.”
“Well, that’s my recommendation, sir.”
“Thank you, Il Churchill. Please reassemble the chip so I can attempt to resurrect Captain Adams.”
Churchill works methodically, pressing the components together, and finally screwing in the four tiny screws, leaving the chip, silver and about an inch square sitting in his palm. He hands it to Charlie, who wraps it up in his handkerchief, and tucks it into his pocket. He nods politely at the engineer, who salutes stiffly.
Charlie walks back to the elevator. The resurrection caskets are just one level up, and he gets there in less than a minute. The room is quite small, barely bigger than a closet. Most of it is filled by three black obsidian slabs about the size of a coffin. At the head of each one floats a small interface, and a small slot
He taps the interface, which unfurls, allowing him to access the interface. It authenticates briefly with his rig, and then allows him to start a resurrection job. At the prompt, he sticks the chip in. There’s a brief pause as the inbuilt memory cell uploads its body data. The casket hums briefly as it mixes an appropriate gene sequence from its bank.
The top of the casket suddenly slides back on two obsidian arms, resting on the ground behind the machine. The chip ejects. Inside the casket, a small arm extends straight up.
Charlie turns to the assembler on the wall, opens the door, and removes a rig. It’s a small band of ceramic, with a nest of fine wire filaments and photoelectric eyes and projectors folded inside in the rough shape of a brain, with two small black boxes just over where the hippocampus ought to be.
He punches the button to make a new rig for the next guy, and then gently lowers the rig into the box, anchoring it gently on the small arm, which sinks back into place. Then, he removes the chip from the side of the box and pushes it into the rig. Two small green lights at the back of the rig blink and turn on. The lid descends back to the top. An interface option appears floating over it. It’s just blinking red text, ‘Confirm?’ and a tile. He taps the tile. The text vanishes. There’s a rush as the casket fills with fluid, and the fabricator begin to extrude meat.
Charlie switches off the light as he leaves. With any luck, he’ll never have to come back in here again. He gets in the elevator, returns to the passenger deck, and makes it back to the crew area without further incident. He walks down the last hallway to his door, unlocks it, and steps inside. He’s instantly aware that something is wrong. The hard locks should have stopped the door.
His eyes focus on the floor. The tab grenade is sitting on the carpet with a hole through the middle, smoking. He glances up. Adelle Blanchet is sitting on his bed with a pistol in her lap, looking at him calmly.
He glances up. She nods at a chair sitting in the middle of the room. Her face does not register so much as a flicker of emotion. He drops his handkerchief onto the floor, not taking his eyes off of her. She speaks calmly.
“Captain Frost? We need to talk.”
Charlie turns slowly and shuts the door behind him.
I think I've learned a lot from "The Man From Philidelphia," mostly in the form of the kinds of mistakes I tend to make in projects like these. I suspect that this will wind up being a much more polished final product.