Wagner is sick to his stomach. His cheek is pressed up against a cold, corrugated metal floor, and everywhere around him there are others, moaning and clutching their stomachs. The entire room is pitching and heaving in great swells, over and over. He decides that he must be in the hold of a ship, a very large ship. He smells steel and powder and canvas and vomit, especially vomit. He retches, but nothing comes out except spittle. It feels like his throat will turn inside out and spill out of his mouth onto the deck.
This story first appeared in Lamplight Magazine in February 2020.
The following message is a service of Intergalactic Global Communication Systems.
Greetings, people of Earth.
Everyone on your planet is receiving this message. Each of you is hearing it in your specific language. I must say, this world has quite a diverse population.
The first signs of infestation emerged around container bay 12, where we stored uranium from the Onara 4 mines. A door panel had stopped working, and the duty engineer found chewed cables in the walls. Droppings in the cargo squad’s kitchen, next to ravaged packs of chocolate biscuits and beef jerky, were discovered soon after.
When I received the call, I went there at once. Pest control is an urgent task for the cleaning squad, second only to decontamination. I used the time it took to reach the container decks to refresh my knowledge of Onaran wildlife.
Note: This story originally appeared in Escape Pod as Episode 683.
MAISIE was seven years old on the day she woke up and died.
Blame it on the algorithms, if you wish. The survivors — and there were not many of them — certainly did.
Warby waited for the door to unlock. The outer door thunked, then two long seconds elapsed before the inner door light illuminated, permitting him entry into the jolt shop. Was so much security necessary?
GERT status update:
G-tube former embryo final failure rate: 100%. Restarting with H-tube embryos. Please advise.
**Incoming encrypted transmission: Geocoupled Extrasolar Report Transmitter key required**
Affirmative. No change in colony deployment protocol. Proceed with H-tube embryo thawing, gestation, and rearing.
GERT status update:
H-tube former embryo final failure rate: 100%. Restarting with I-tube embryos. Please advise.
Soni opened the door and stepped out into the corridor. She felt the ridges of the enamel floor caressing her bare feet. The two tenths standard gravity meant that the ridges were barely caressing her feet, not inflicting painful pressure against her soles like they would if she were on Earth, but it was cold. Colder than it should have been? The air felt cold too. She checked the dat on her arm. It showed the corridor temperature was nominal.
For IDJ eyes only: Target secured. En route to rendezvous point on Ceres station. Estimated arrival: 0417, 15:56 by Earth reckoning. Delays or changes to be communicated immediately.
The Neren delegation, representatives of Leha’s own species, had been seated with their backs to the window that overlooked their ruined world, so they stared their hatred into Leha as they ate. The desert behind them was an empty seafloor, scattered with leaning ships and the bones of the leviathans that had recently ruled the deep. Some of the marooned craft were warships, but there were also trawlers and freighters and yachts and cruise ships, all of the latter newly outfitted with cannons and other weaponry, none of which had stopped the water from vanishing beneath their keels.