DEVIL'S WEEK

Here we have an extra-special treat, Freezine aficionados. Because just this last Halloween, the Freezine of Fantasy and Science Fiction proudly presented a brand new, never-before-published short story from veteran author John Shirley. So if you're ready to be taken to an extremely dark place right now, then be sure to read on for our final tale for this autumnal season, THE SOFTEST PILLOW, by John Shirley.


Cemetery Art above by Shaun Lawton


Monday, September 26, 2011

SPACE IS A DEADLY SISTER: VII

by Gil James Bavel


Mission Day 654:
12:21 hours
Ganymede Base mining station
Second Shift





With the survey work completed for the week, the North Forty had been leveled and was ready for the new terraforming equipment. The crew of Ganymede Base were in the mess hall taking a well-deserved break. Marquis Williams broke the silence of lunch.

“So, Devon,” he started, “We going to break out the construction gear tomorrow?”

Berkshire played with the food he’d squirted out onto his plate, mashing it into the vegetables they’d grown in the hydroponics bay. “Bright and early. Be up at six hundred hours, I want to get an early start on it. We’re going to finish getting the East side leveled and ready so by the time the Friday Run ship comes in, all we’ll have to do is set it up and join it to the existing structure.” He looked at John Biggs, and Will Jensen. “You guys are going to need to set up the interface for the new airlock. They’re adding steerage for six more bodies. That’s three rooms worth of kits, a corridor and another restroom. We’re going to be doing work outdoors for a couple of weeks. But I want it done in short shifts, like the survey team does. Too much radiation out there, your suits can’t handle long durations. Keep it to six hours, no more.” He eventually found something edible on his tray and forked it into his mouth. Chewing, he said, “I got most of the East side surveyed, it’s nearly level already. Mostly filling in small craters and laying a slab. Shouldn’t be too hard.”

Biggs nodded, reaching for his drink. “I can knock the cutting out tonight, and put a panel on the inside, so we’ll be ready in the morning to depressurize.” He turned to Jensen. “Will, you want to put in a few hours this evening after dinner?”

Jensen was caught shoveling food into his mouth, an orange glop that at one time could have been some kind of meat—with sweet potatoes, probably. “Sure, that sounds fine,” he answered. I’ll prep my suit.”

Biggs drank from his glass and shook his head. “Shouldn’t need it. We won’t make the cuts on the outer wall until tomorrow, I just want to get a plate up on the inside so it won’t take us long in the morning.” He looked at his Commander. “Boss, there’s very little chance of anything going wrong, but in case, do you want to relocate into the radio shack?”

Berkshire contemplated the food on his tray and shook his head. “Nah. We should be all right. Besides, if there’s a problem, there’s not much we can do about it anyway. Anybody that’s squeamish can get into a suit. You’ve been cramming on your construction training, right?”

Jensen swallowed and said, “Yeah, all week. We’re ready. It will only take a couple hours after dinner, we’ll be in bed early.” He looked at Biggs as if it were a challenge.

The stark, white interior of the mess hall reminded him of a museum. “Hey, boss,” Jensen said, “Can we at least paint the new unit when we install it? White gets so boring.”

Berkshire looked at Jensen with a smile. “Sure. Paint it green if you like. Just get it back to regulation before you pressurize it.”

A panel lit up by the telescreen, which was showing several external views of the surface around the base. There was a transmission in from Earth. Berkshire reached over and hit a button. “Look alive, people, it’s the Director, regular priority.”

Received from Jovian Deep Space Array, 12:24:17 hours,” the computer voice announced.

Indeed, the staid face of First Director Chenowith materialized on the telescreen. He appeared in the foreground in front of the camera, again with a bevy of technicians behind him going about their duties in the background. It was a familiar sight to the crew.

“Greetings, Ganymede Base”, the transmission began. “Fine work you’re doing. We want you to know that we’re all behind you. I have a mail packet coming in for you after this transmission ends. Just wanted to let you know that your supplies and the spare parts and construction materials for the new addition will be arriving on tomorrow’s Friday Run. As you’re aware, Devon, the mission council have determined that the North Forty is incompatible with further mining stations, but not for a blower, so you’ll be getting a new one of those as well. I’m putting you in for a note of merit for getting it done ahead of schedule. You probably saved yourself a week of surveying by getting that out of the way. Good work. Also, Devon, after the mail packet, there is a priority message for you, eyes only. Take it in your private quarters. Keep up the good work, everyone. First Director Chenowith out.”

Dr. Lisa Obermeyer rolled her eyes. “Note of merit. Big fucking deal.” Turning to Berkshire, she grinned. “Gold star for you, Devon.” She had finished her lunch and pushing her tray forward, got up to go to the restroom. “You’ll be able to get another raise soon.”

Berkshire seemed nonplussed. “Feh, out here it really doesn’t matter. Okay, everyone, mail call.” He got up and began handing out pads to the crew. “Take your time, there’s another half an hour before anyone needs to worry about getting back to work. Enjoy your videos from home, folks.”

Obermeyer looked at Jensen with a wink and closed the restroom door behind her. Jensen took his pad from Berkshire and looked it over. Message from his mother, several from his family on Moonbase Beta, and a recording from his nephew back on Earth. He picked up his tray, finished what was on it, and retired to his quarters to watch them.

The rest of the Ganymede base crew followed suit, and slowly got up, looking at their pads, putting the trays from lunch into the washing unit. Berkshire went to his quarters and took the priority message from there. Sitting down at his COM center, he piped it through. It was a program designed to run only with an officer’s password. Berkshire entered his. The computer at the COM center unpacked the archive, processed it, and it ran.

They were specifications for the new addition, plus plans for the blower, algae kits and the spare parts they’d ordered. The only priority eyes-only material other than that was a directive that the addition be up and habitable as soon as possible. Why that couldn’t be opened in front of the rest of the crew was beyond him. He took notes on the specs, and saved it. Back to the grind, he thought, and turned off the workstation. He’d share the specs with the crew later.

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for Part VIII

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