A dizzying array of multicolored buttons twinkled like stars in the darkened room. The swishing of liquid was the only sound. It was coming from a standing pod set into one of the walls. Eleven similar pods wall lay silent.
A high-pitched alarm broke the harmony of blinking lights and moving liquid, as if an unseen timer had finished its countdown. The one pod slid open, ejecting clear goo and a body to the floor. The impact forced the figure to gasp. It writhed on the floor, expelling more of the same liquid it was covered in and taking in recycled oxygen into its lungs.
Confusion. What happened? Where is the rest of the crew?
It coughed and tried its voice, but the vocal cords were new and not use yet to talking. After a few minutes of steady breathing and a run through of the vocal exercises it always instructed others to perform, the figure rasped an audible, “LIGHTS!”
The Replication Bay soon filled with soft, luminescent light, revealing the man who lie on the floor. Soft as the lights were, they were blinding to his newly replicated body. He struggled to his legs, but like the rest of him, they too were new and unused. The goo around him slowly seeped into the perforated floor. At the same time, the pod behind him slid closed with a hiss and soon was being refilled with the same clear liquid.
The man wobbled his way like an infant to a nearby display console. He suddenly recalled his instructor’s words at the academy: “It’s like being violently born.” Until he had experienced it himself, he didn’t know how true those words were.
The computer confirmed that something had gone very wrong. The station’s memory was corrupted, unable to give the current date, how much time had passed since the catastrophe, nor the nature of the event. The only functional systems were life support and artificial gravity.
Normally, the Replication Bay wasn’t supposed to be operational in a cataclysmic event, but as the Chief Replication Engineer, the man knew how to tie the Bay’s system into the emergency power systems. Always have a plan B, as his father would tell him. If his vitals flatlined, the Bay would activate and get to work gestating a new body for him with his on-file DNA and memory backups. Though highly illegal, he was now glad he took the risk.
Whatever had happened, it was after his last memory upload, because he couldn’t recall any sort of hint of catastrophe approaching the station.
No record, no communications, and no signs of life. He had to go investigate for himself.
“UNIFORM!” he yelled to the room.
Newly suited in the grey poly-fiber jumper that indicated he was a replicator, he ventured out of the Replication Bay and into the corridor. The noisy hissing of the Bay’s doors concerned him. Last he remembered, they glided noiselessly, like all the other station’s doors. It was as if they had fallen to disuse.
The red emergency lights blinked steadily like a resting heartbeat, unlike his own, as the man cautiously explored the corridors. He moved slowly, half because he was afraid of what he would find, half because his legs weren’t quite yet used to walking. Something far away hissed uncontrollably, as if a pipe had burst recently.
At every turn, the man expected to come across a gruesome scene, either someone dead or dying, but there were no signs of life, or death, anywhere. A nagging feeling in the back of his mind told him to find the escape pods and get the hell out of there. He didn’t listen to it.
As he finally reached the Bridge, he found what he had expected to find all along; he just didn’t imagine the scale of it.
The large room, usually filled with life, was littered with bodies in various pieces and forms of decay. They must have come from hundreds of people. In one far corner, there was even pile of bones, picked clean.
Everywhere he looked there were the signs of his same grey uniform. His heart beat rapidly in his chest. Every fiber in his newly-minted body told him to run, but of course he couldn’t; didn’t. It was when his eyes fell upon a nearby half-eaten face, the teeth marks clear in the flesh, that he thought to himself, “How many times have I been here? How many times did I not go to the escape pods?”
“Right on time,” said a ragged voice behind him.
It was the captain. Under his left arm, he had a makeshift crutch. In his right hand, more like a claw now, he held an energy pistol. One shot would overload the nervous system with a beam of energy, basically frying the person from the inside. His left leg was twisted, as if it had broken a long time ago and healed incorrectly. No wonder why he didn’t make it to the escape pods. You’d have to climb a set of stairs to reach them. Now, the useless leg just dragged beside him.
The captain’s uniform was in rags about him, it was hard to tell in the red emergency lights, but the Chief Replication Engineer guessed they were covered in blood. The man’s characteristically clean-shaven face now sported a long, greying beard. His eyes looked both wild and haunted.
“The solar flare fucked up everything, including the food replicators.” A sudden flash of hunger. “So many died. So many failed systems. The gas leak in sector nine saw to the other survivors. Luckily for me, you’re the only thing left I can count on,” cackled the captain.
The Chief Replicator’s last unrecorded thoughts were, “At least the gun will be quick.”