Chapter 11

Ætherglow #210


“Sure, lead the way,” you say.

“Over here.” In the hallway, it opens a door you don’t think you’ve ever noticed before, one of many such maintenance access doors in the colony. Behind it, a narrow staircase leads down into darkness.

You follow Zeta into the lower level of the wall. Lights activate, dim white and red panels that line the corners of the ceilings to guide the way. Ahead, another door blocks you path: RESTRICTED: Engineering Personnel Access, it says. But just as Zeta looks down at its terminal, the light on the door flashes green and the thick metal plate slides open.

“Wow, you got through that fast,” you say.

“Every lock can be picked, Aydan! We’re technopaths, even a first year could access any door in the colony if they’re determined enough.”

You follow it into the tunnel of metal conduits, air ducts, and clusters of wires, through a narrow passage between two walls of metal storage cabinets. Your footsteps echo as you walk across a metal hatch. Zeta stops and turns around just in front of you.

“We can open anything we want!” it says as a red light flashes in the tunnel and the hatch just behind you slides open with a loud whir of motors. It reveals a small recess glowing with blue lights, and at the bottom is another hatch with a small window to the black of space.

“Consider me impressed by your ability to pick locks,” you say. “But really, it doesn’t seem like we’re going to class right now.”

It looks away, nervous-stimming with its hands. “You’re right Aydan. I’m sorry...”

“It’s okay, but then, why did you bring me here?” you say.

“ seemed like a good place to talk. I wanted to tell you something, Aydan... Something I’ve wanted to say to you since practically the day we met, but, ahh...” It takes a deep breath and composes itself. “I didn’t want to interfere in your life, you know? It seems you’re going a different way... But I should be honest with you, because you’re like, my best friend, Aydan, so I should say this anyway. Even if it might upset you...”

“You can tell me, Zeta. Anything, it’s okay, I won’t be mad or anything,” you say.


It pushes you back, with its high-G world strength. You lose your balance on the edge of the pit behind you, and the momentum of rotation carries you down. You hit the bottom, on your back, and bump your head against the metal hatch under you.

You look up as your vision refocuses. Zeta smiles and waves to you as the lights around you flash red and door above you slides shut. A buzzer sounds and a sign on the wall lights up: WARNING: Emergency Depressurization Initiated

“What are you doing?!” you shout. But you can’t see or hear Zeta anymore. The door under you vibrates and suddenly moves. The repeated buzz of the alarm grows quieter. A bright flash hits your eyes as the Sun sweeps by the widening gap in the floor.

2254-08-23 10:43:04 Zeta > hail ÆON!

What will you do?

1) Grab onto something to avoid being thrown out of the colony by centrifuge: 1 (16.66%)
2) Try to seize control of the maintenance airlock and stop the sequence immediately: 3 (50.0%)
3) Desperately call on ÆON: 2 (33.33%)
4) Let go and fall into death’s embrace: 0 (0.0%)
Expired 9 months ago (2023-06-27 19:00:29)