#storytime From Clean to the Red Mist

A photo of a purple sky by Vincentiu Solomon via Unsplash 🙂

Here is a start of a story, I just need to start writing and this was the beginning of that process for me. It’s not a full story but the start of one. Here is the inciting incident. I still don’t know who these characters are but I needed something to happen to get the ball rolling. This scene wasn’t supposed to go into the direction it but but I needed that moment and I took the Die Hard route given it’s the holidays. I originally posted this on Medium but also want to use my own online space for this material while I get a feel for writing something this way. This material is in no way final, its just a start, a draft or a fragment of a possibility of a story.

This is the link that goes to medium for the the same thing with just a minor change to it because its part of the world I’m not ready to show yet.

You could find him at the docking ports in the pipe, which acted as the main hub of the entirety of Vedas station. The pipe was a multi kilometre cylinder which stretched for dozens of kilometres interspersed with huge rotating torus rings which offered a gravitationally bound space for the population who called the station home. Currently there are 6 rings in operation, each rotating at a different rate to create a semblance of gravity for the people who lived and worked on it. Each ring had its twin which rotated in the opposite direction to counter the effect of its rotation on the structure as a whole. 2 new rings were in early fabrication at the Saturn construction yard to be constructed on site.

It would be years before they would be complete but it was a fascinating process that went on like clockwork with the majority of the construction being automated via AI and robotics. Who needs people when AI and robotics could do it better? Zef hated that thought, it was important for people to be involved in building the place where so many of them would live. There were still a lot of people on site, but it was almost insignificant when you considered the scale of the site itself, spanning several kilometres at each end of the station.

Zef was a small guy at 165 cm with a lean if wiry frame. He had pale brown skin and dark black hair. If you were to see him in person, you would probably have the urge to feed him, because he always looked like he skipped one too many meals. He had a warm smile that looked like he was up to no good but that you couldn’t stay mad at him, even though he probably deserved it. He was trouble but most of the time, a good kind of the sorts. It wasn’t uncommon for people to see him that way. Even though he had lived on station for years, his spacer and Martian genetics just made him seem a little less than your standard Earth based human and he hated that. He had a buzz cut because it was easy to take care of, his brow seemed to twitch with annoyance at the looks he was getting as they got into the observation deck but he was used to it and generally tried to ignore it. Zef liked to tell himself he liked to be overlooked, he didn’t want to stand out but he knew that was the lie he had to tell himself to keep on going.

Yin was Earther stock and had grown up on Earth until she was 18. At 170 cm tall she looked healthier even if that wasn’t necessarily true but it made a big difference in how she was perceived. Before going to the ob deck was a treat after another week in the grind doing maintenance and repair to ensure her skills were as shape as ever.

Her green eyes and pale olive skin seemed to almost glow in the warm light of the observation deck. She wore her long hair in a ponytail that had a mind of its own, whipping itself like a dragon in search of its prey ready to attack anything that could get within its reach. That sounded better to Zef than it just being the effect of zero. Zef had it whip him in the face several times as they were heading up to the deck. Her green eyes seemed to drill down in search of your secrets and Zef always got a kick about how it made some of the most self-assured people uncomfortable. She did half the time just to see how the rabbits would jump and most of the time it was hilarious.

The observation deck was actually a much smaller stout cylinder that stuck out of the pipe where ships could anchor or dock for loading and unloading of their containers into the main hold as well as transfer of personnel and supplies to and from the ship. The large windows of the observation deck looked over a large area where you could see the largest vessels to smaller ships tethered to the docking port.

They were definitely some of his favourite places on the station. He would take pictures of the ships and watch the drones work like bees to unload their cargo. Zef loved the observation deck because it had nearly a full 360 view of the entire docking zone because of its design. The support columns were inlaid into the space and each of them held living walls that were used to ground the entire open space of the space.

The pipe was surrounded by several large torus shaped rings that circled the central pipe that contained command and all the major infrastructure to support the station. There were currently 6 different habs with each one being paired with its twin, the major difference being that they rotate in the opposite direction to cancel out the impact of their rotations. The Amarok or wolf in Inuit was the name for the Saturn Rift Zone which acts as the gateway for the entire system bringing communications, resources, goods and people to and from the explored space to Sol.

There were many large docks at regular intervals from the central operations centre that were designed so that ships could be locked on with strong magnetic clamps and they could be unloaded directly into the city sized cargo bays that length of the pipe. Zef peered up at a 1 km Nuska class cargo vessel which travelled the rift zone and thread corridor network. It was a monster of a ship but its design was based on efficiency not speed so outside it’s Sakato-Cortemell Drive (SCD) it moved relatively slow like most transports, slow and steady. He held onto the window rails so he could get a great view of the unloading process.

Zef was at home in zero (zero-g), even if biologically it was hell. He, like so many spacers, had to undergo so many dizzying medical procedures just to keep his cells from getting ripped apart by radiation bombardment and his muscles and skeleton viable for weight not just mass if and when they went “down the well.”

There were few spacers who didn’t face any medical issues, it’s just the brutal reality of space in general. He was always cold going into the pipe but he loved to watch the ships from the dock vantage point. He found it soothing to have no sense of up or down, even if he hit his head more often than he’d like to admit.

Zef and Yin came down with an increasing regularity after work to one of the many public observation centres that were found at all the docks. Most of the ships carried cargo to and from Earth and the rest of explored space and all that was funneled through the rift zones. Although FTL travel had been a mainstay for centuries, the risk from radiation exposure and limited jump accuracy had kept all but the largest states and companies on the outside up until the first rift zone was discovered. (A story you want to put aside to explain later)

Yin came to the pipe to take in the kinetic energy of the observation deck as it also overlooked the arrival and departure zone of the dock. They were having a bulb of coffee at one of the coffee places that overlooked the large expansive window panes in all directions. “What are you going to do?” Yin asked, her dark hair seeming having a life of its own in zero. All Zef could say was that he’d “start hanging out at the dock lounges and seek a few of the ship guys out.” He didn’t know much about how all the companies worked, all the logistics companies had different structures and systems. Nothing was easy but there had to be some way to get out of the system without being a settler.

If there is one thing Zef didn’t want, it was to have to become a popsicle. He knew it was the safest way to travel FTL but what you get in safety from rad exposure you lose in the risks poised by the reanimation procedure. There was a significant risk if you went into cryo that you wouldn’t wake up but people still took the chances, especially those who had nothing to lose.

Zef has finished his coffee bulb, letting it go before his brow tensed. “What’s the point, all I do is hit the same roadblocks no matter what I do.” Without looking at the bulb he grabs it before it floats out of reach. He releases his feet from the holds on the walls and pushes off towards the window. The space was 2 floors high. It was such a large space that if you just went on the float, you could get stuck within its immense volume without a way back.

Large zero-g spaces like the observation deck use drones and handles that move on a track around the main areas of the space to ensure people can get from one end to the other. It is designed to be reconfigured within minutes by the AI. In addition, the walls in the space were designed to act as living walls, with plant life and mosses that helped to ground the space in midst of its spectacular views of the docked ships and the station itself.

Zef drifted towards the window which overlooked one of the large haulers, this one was named Wind Catcher according to his terminal, it was a Recon Logistics ship. They were doing their regular run in the direction of Castor. The drones were moving cargo on and off the vessel. That was when the windows flashed and notices began appearing on all the screens. The clear view of the huge expansive windows was replaced with emergency warning that directed everyone off the observation deck.

Yin and Zef were far from the exits and got into the cue as the crowds were huddled around the exits. They could hear the gears of the retractable shutters of the windows begin to move the shutters into place to protect the windows from any potential threat. If they were shot by a point defence canon (PDC) they wouldn’t hold, there was just too much power in a modern PDC for them to hold but they were designed to slow the slugs down prevent it from hitting the metallic glass that got much its strength from palladium and a smattering of other elements. 

Kemp was keeping a running commentary of what was happening on his heads-up display (HUD) enabled glasses that also used bone sound conduction to talk to him if he wasn’t using the actual terminal screen and none of it was good. Kemp told him by text that all the other docks were operating normally and were moving into alert status, with much of the traffic that was heading to their location being directed to nearby docking facilities. Kemp was tapping into the emergency broadcast network which showed system statuses across the station. Luckily whatever was happening was isolated to the docking facility they were in, at least as far as Kemp could see. His AI had strong access as part of the nav training he did. It allowed him to see a little deeper than most civies could. Which was lucky when shit was going down like now.

They waited outside the main mass of the crowd, hanging back near one of the living walls that framed the space.  Zef was checking out what was happening and was taking a close look at the living wall. He always wondered how they choose the plants for them when he saw that behind the wall façade had a segment loose. He wouldn’t have noticed if he wasn’t trying to see how the plants were planted and kept in place. It was at the edge of the assembly. He released his foot from the anchor and followed the railing that kept the living wall separate from the crowds until he was at the corner where he saw a device plugged into an outlet that was wedged into the crack made by the panel.

Kemp was already running its own analysis of what it was seeing from the cameras located on Zef’s visor which was his interface with his terminal when he wasn’t using the device itself. Network access ever since the warning went out had become inconsistent and now almost impossible. Kemp was still deriving information from what it could analyze about the traffic patterns. It seemed as though there were multiple devices in the space that were throwing a bunch of noise across all the networks preventing anyone else from getting online.

Zef asked Yin to watch his back and he pushed himself down and used the bar above him to keep him from drifting off. The wedged box was pumping a ton of noise across the network not just through the wireless system but it must be using the network connections on the pillars to disrupt anything from getting through but why? He was so intrigued with the device he didn’t notice that one of the men holding the group back had begun to rush towards them by squatting on the lift door and using it to push off from, he wasn’t fast or smooth but he slashed at the people in his path as the other men were dealing with what was left of the crowd.

Kemp told Zef via text on his HUD that this was a common tactic in battle, vessels pumping out a nasty amount of noise into the ether to disrupt communications between drones and their mother ships to curtail their capabilities. The thing was that everyone knew this, that was why the vast majority of drones could operate independently and had layers of sensor and communications to provide information despite the jamming. You rarely saw that kind of tactic used in a mission in a station let alone Vedas.

“Zef!” Yin said before she was silent, just as he turned his head, he could see the man barrelling towards him get out a beige ceramic blade and a trail of blood from the where the crowd was as the 3 others went stabby, stabby. There were bodies everywhere adrift. Their blood spilling out as their cuts spilled blood in all directions. Turning what was a clean welcoming space into a space of pain and death. As the drops began almost a red mist that would cover it touched red. The 3 other men were tying up whoever had given up to the rail while the man after him continued to follow him up the wall. He grabbed the stem of the plant directly in front of him and threw his back upward and pushed off as much as he could with his feed so he would flip over and the ceiling would become a floor so he could see the man who was after him.

Zef couldn’t see the man and continued to climb up fighting zero. He had to do something now. The others wouldn’t be occupied for much longer and what about Yin. She was floating towards the red bloody mist and there was nothing he could do to get to her. He reached as far as he could stretch out for a long-stemmed plant that looked relatively strong tucked in his legs close to his chest so he could find the wall and at the same time he pushed off the wall holding the plant’s stem with his hands and whipping his back so he was facing the man after him. As soon as his feet hit the wall again, he wedged his left foot into a small space in-between the plants and yanked the plant he was holding out of the wall and then shoved it in the man’s face. Then he threw two quick jabs at the top of his head and pushed him off the wall and he drifted away towards the centre which should keep him out of the way for a few minutes at least.

Taking a moment, the cloud of blood had only grown, Zef looked around and saw that Yin had recovered and was able to grab a rail close by, using it as leverage to push up with her legs against it to make it half way up to the other corner of the living wall to where he was. You could hear crying, moaning and screaming as the remaining attackers were getting ready to go after them.

They were still trapped, there was nowhere to go, they were lucky they didn’t have any projectile based weapons or they would have been dead awhile ago. Kemp was still offline, man this was the type of situation he needed him the most. As they moved away from their view it took them a few minutes to get face to face with each other after following the long pillar to the other side and out of view. She was a little faster than Zef, he’d been hit a few times and was just starting to feel it in his rib cage but luckily his adrenaline was working overtime and would keep the pain at bay. It hurt moving but he didn’t have any choice and just grit his teeth even as he tried to move around the pain.

He saw her up near the corner on the other side of the support pillar biting the handle of a knife she had taken from the mag wall on the shop below them. She was a bio ecologist and would know exactly how the living walls worked and pointed towards an empty space. “There should be a wall access corridor right here if this is anything like the other docks.” She had already wedged her foot in so she didn’t drift away taking the knife out to pop open the release mechanism.

“What could they want, what are these fuckers after.” Zef could see her eyes begin to water and she stopped for a second to wipe the mist of blood from her face. Both of them were covered in drops of blood that were smeared everywhere. “They wanted the box.” Zef opened the side pocket of his pack, he didn’t know why they wanted it but if they can’t get out in a minute, they probably won’t have to worry about the whys anymore.

He grabbed the release, pulled it out, rotated it counter clockwise to initiate the unlock sequence and pushed it down. Both of them heard a click and the panel released. “Fuck yeah.” They could hear voices getting closer. He pushed her in before she could say anything else. The knife was already on the float and they both knew this wouldn’t be the end. He didn’t want to be here or do this. What was going on, why was this happening to them for God’s sake. He snatched the knife putting it in his mouth that was smeared with blood before slipping into the hatch and snapping it shut.

They would be able to open it easily so he ripped the panel out and tore the board out, that should stop them, at least for a few minutes and they started to push themselves down the dimly lit corridor that was barely enough room for each of them but as long as they were out there, neither of them had their terminal AIs or any idea what was going on in the dock. He hated cramp spaces like this but it was better to be here with a wall between them and the murder crew who would be after them shortly. It wasn’t much of an improvement but it still was better than it was just a moment ago, the emergency clicks turned on and they could see a LED stripe directing them, they didn’t know where it went but if this was an access tunnel it will lead them off the level at the minimum and they began to move, with Yin leading the way.