Friday, January 9, 2015

Ghost Station - Part 1

Fiction Friday! Escape pod here.

In other fiction related news the results of the Pod and Planet Fiction Contest have been announced. I got 1st and 2nd place in the comedy category with "Angels and Sinners" and "Artificial Stupidity" respectively. My serious piece also was placed in joint 3rd in the 8000 Suns category. This is the first time any of my serious entries have been placed! Now is it that I'm getting better or is it that the new judges just have better taste?

Anyway this new one below ran away from me a bit. It got over ten thousand words so I'm made it into bite-sized chunks and four parts. Its a horror story set in the Eve universe.

Ghost Station - Part 1

Gakoho had never known silence like it. If he stopped walking and held his breath there was no sound at all. For someone who had lived his entire life on space stations and starships, it was unprecedented. He was used to constant background noise. The hum of the life-support system, the rumble of the engines, the subtle vibrations of the reactor. Here there was nothing. Just total silence. He stopped holding his breath. The sound of his rapid breathing now echoing loudly around his helmet. He looked around. The rest of the crew were with him, all kitted out in EVA suits and slowly walking down the ruined corridor. Every so often they would pass a breach in the outer hull. Gakoho would stared out into deep space. If he fell out of that hole he'd tumble into the black forever. Of course with the magnetic boots it was impossible, but he had thought about it. He needed to break the silence.

"Cap. We sure this is a good idea. This station is giving me the willies."

"Knock it off Gakoho. Its just a station. Just like hundreds of others we've visited. Only this one is abandoned. Having been wrecked in a massive fireball. With no atmosphere. And no gravity. And no living persons onboard except us. And everyone who was onboard may or may not have been killed nearly 90 years ago by a computer malfunction."

"Geez Cap, you sure do know how to put a guys mind at ease."

The Captain laughed through the comm system.

Gakoho had been serving on the salvage frigate "The Magpie" for nearly a year. Like many who crewed on these run down ships it was more a career of necessity than choice. His wife had ran off with another man. That had hit him hard and he soon lost his job which had also lost him his home. He'd taken a posting as salvage boom operator on the Magpie as a jobless, homeless and desperate man. He had spent the last six months cutting up wrecks of starships in space for their valuable metals and parts. It wasn't a wholly bad life. He had a job, crewmates and a bed. It may have not been much of a life compared to what he had previously, but it was a life none-the-less.

"Talking of living persons, Oinu you there?" the Captains voice echoed over the comms unit addressing The Magpie's pilot.

"Yeah Captain. I'm snug as a bug in a rug in the cockpit, which is the only place on this rust bucket you can be snug. Everything is shut down and running on absolute minimum power. Pretty sure the cops won't spot us unless they run some pretty intense scans on the wreck's interior. However, with everything shut down they could be knocking on the airlock right now and I'd wouldn't know."

The Captain acknowledged Oinu and it went silent again. Gakoho thought about everything that could go wrong. The Police were a real threat. They shouldn't be here and the cops would happily throw all their asses in jail if they were caught for trespassing and theft. Then there was the fact the frigate was running cold. It would take nearly an hour to be fully powered up again. If this wrecked station started to fall apart there would be no speedy escape. So many things to go wrong, so many ways to die.

They had known about this abandoned station for years. They had even discussed a few times how they could attempt to salvage some of it. Each time they had decided it was not worth it. It was on a busy shipping route near a stargate and the authorities would soon show up if they started hacking chunks of tritanium off the hulk with their salvaging drone or boom. Then a few days ago the Captain was approached by an agent. Apparently he worked for a rich collector who specialised in old computers. He'd pay good money for the central computer core of the old station that they were currently on. Apparently there was an urban legend that the station was not just abandoned. There had been an incident. Something about a problem with the stations computer core. There had been deaths and the whole thing had been covered up. The collector wanted the core for his collection so he could regale his guests with colourful stories about its sordid past. Problem was the core was located deep inside the rusting hulk of a station. This required the Magpie to carefully fly into the one of the ruined hangers and manually dock. The crew had then suited up and entered the lifeless station leaving Oinu to man the ship.

Gakoho glanced behind him. Mitokka, the ships doctor looked white. She was fine in a sick bay surrounded by the bleeding and the dying but in a EVA suit in a vacuum she looked lost and scared. The Captain had insisted she'd come in case of injuries. Her protests that she'd not be able to do anything in the vacuum of space had not gotten her anywhere. Then there was Elanoda the ships engineer. He looked most comfortable out of the group having logged months of EVA time over his career. When the ship broke down, Elanoda usually had to go outside to fix something, and the ship broke down a lot. Then there was Sakkatokka the scanning technician along with and Tatsari. They were an item these days. Tatsari didn't have an official title on the ship. Generally it was seen that if something, or regularly someone, needed hitting, Tatsari would hit it.

They finally reached the central computer core room. However for the first time in five hours, they had found a closed door. It took Elanoda almost half an hour to cut through the secure lock on the manual door. It appear to be locked from the inside. As Elanoda and Tatsari prised the door open, there was a rush of escaping gas as the door opened a crack.

"My god there was atmosphere still in there!" Sakkatokka exclaimed.

"Well there isn't now. Come on lets go." growled the Captain. They prised the door open fully and stepped in. The central computer core stood in the centre of the room. A cylindrical pillar six feet high and two feet in diameter. The crew stood silent. There was a body there. A tool like a screwdriver was in his hand and was wedged into the side of the core all the way to the handle. The sealed atmosphere had preserved his corpse from where he had fallen. He was wearing overalls like a station technician. One shoulder appeared to be covered by a rusty brown stain.

"What in Divinities Edge?" Elanoda stated.

"Blood." Mitokka stated. "This man was badly wounded. There are stains on the floor from the door. He was bleeding badly before he got in here."

"Nobody move!" the Captain growled. "Sakkatokka use the holo-recorder. Get that in a hi-res 3D recording. I'm guessing our sponsor will pay a lot more for the core if he has this image to go with it! Sort of backs up the legend that computer problems caused a disaster on this station."

Gakoho stood still and tried to work out what had happened. It didn't look like he was maintaining anything, it looked like he was plunging the tool into the core to do damage. Was that what caused the station to become abandoned. This act of sabotage? Why would someone do that? Or was it like the captain said and this dead man was no saboteur but an injured hero trying to save the station?


Ninety years ago.......

"He was spying on me?" Haalonen asked in shock. She was sat in her bosses office along with a high-level suit from their corporate HQ.

"I'm afraid so. It appears he was infatuated with you. We've got a lot of evidence from the servers here. Some of it is sensitive and I want you to know only I and one of our investigators have seen some small sections. Some of the videos are, well, personal. We will ensure it is all wiped."

Haalonen felt herself turn red. They had told her that hidden cameras had been found not only at her workstation but also in her apartment on the station.

"I cannot believe it." she muttered. "Why?"

"He's a nerd. Most of our best programmers are. You know what they are like. Socially awkward. Scared of approaching the opposite sex. He probably thought you were his girlfriend although you never said more than a polite greeting each day." her boss surmised. "I'm afraid there is more."

Haalonen looked worried. She'd been working for ZiaTech Communications for over a year. They specialised in remote access software and communication encryption using AI algorithms. Cutting edge programming. She's casually known Ylomo. He was slightly younger than her. A total geek who she always smile and said hello to but nothing more. She'd not invited any of this stalking!

"The 'issues' six months ago with Chiku. HR told us about them when we were discussing the current events. We think that was him."

Haalonen broke down in tears. Chiku had been her long term partner. They had lived together on the station. One day six months ago she noticed his datapad screen was on. It wasn't locked nor had it gone to sleep. She had trusted him, but still she couldn't resist. She opened the recent files and found a series of horrific video files. They were so disgusting she had reported him the the authorities. He had been arrested at work. They found more on his office computer and on memory drives hidden in their apartment. She had never seen him again as bail had been refused. The trial had been quick as the evidence was so strong and he'd been sent to an asteroid penal colony for fifteen years. She'd needed some time off work and had explained everything to the head of HR. Haalonen started sobbing uncontrollably.

"He set Chiku up?" she asked.

"We think so. We've found what sounds like similar video files on his drives as well as the access codes to your apartment. He could have easily planted the files on Chiku's computers and slipped in to plant the memory drives in your place. We've informed the authorities to what we've found but it'll take some time for them to investigate."

"Where is Ylomo now?" she asked.

Her boss went quiet for a moment.

"I'm afraid we don't know." he finally admitted.


"Look, he's the best programmer in the system. He can hack anything. He could be hiding out somewhere on the station. He might have left on an InterBus shuttle using a false ID. We're pretty sure he's not dangerous. However, you just need to be careful. We'll find him, its just going to take some time. We've got help coming to review what damage he's already done and to track him down. We've got the best of the best on this. Don't worry, in a few hours we'll know everything. In the mean time we don't want you to go back to your place. I've booked you a nice hotel room. Go, order room service, watch some trashy Gallente Rom-Com and I'll call you when we've got him."


Matari techno music blasted out of the speakers in the pitch black room. Rows of computer terminals streched across the room, each with a person at the keyboard. It was midnight station time and the cyber club was busy. Ylomo leaned over the monitor to block anyones view of the screen. A black hoodie was pulled up over his head to hide his face. On the screen he watched her on the hacked security cameras enter room 1045 at the Jasma Marquis hotel on deck 14. Should he send her some champagne? Some flowers? No, he needed to concentrate on resolving the problems he had. The third man was arriving now. He swapped windows to hanger 32's overview. The shuttle arriving was apparently carrying Ekulela, an ex-hacker turned security consultant. His ex-boss and the corporate investigator were stood on the dock side waiting for the ship to complete its docking procedure. They had ruined everything with Haalonen. Now they were going to try and catch him and put Ylomo in prison for a very long time. Ylomo knew he couldn't let that happen. He'd not survive on an asteroid penal colony. He'd be some gang-bangers bitch from day one. Probably passed around as a favour for a packet of smokes or a contra-band holovid. No, he needed to stop the investigation and make amends with Haalonen. She'd understand. She'd forgive him. When she knew how much he loved her they could live happily ever after. He just needed to stop the investigation. He went to work.

Down in the stations computer core the monitoring routines didn't see the intrusion. It was subtle, it was hidden. The code carefully weaved its way through the various firewalls and security routines. Eventually it reached the central command processor code and started to embed itself. Ylomo now had control over the advanced AI that controlled the entire station. It disabled certain security protocols and rewrote operational rules to allow Ylomo to give commands it would not be able to carry out with the safety protocols in place.

Back in the cyber club Ylomo glanced around nervously. All he could see was other geeks engrossed at their console. He'd half expected a troop of heavily armed guards to come stomping in, his virus in the core detected and traced. When he was sure his intrusion had been unnoticed he started programming it with new routines. He was currently on his own. Having an advanced AI on his side watching his back would be helpful. He'd ask it to help him win Haalonen. It would have some good ideas he was sure, AI's were smarter than humans. At no point did he think that an artificial intelligence designed to run a station would not be much use in giving tips on wooing women. He still embedded the task along with the others into the memory banks.

He glanced at the other window on the screen which showed the security cameras. The shuttle had docked and the passenger door had opened. A few people stepped out. Ylomo noticed Ekulela  amongst them. He'd heard of him before and seen him in news stories. One of New Edens best hackers, reformed and now a security consultant. Apparently he was good, very good. He could ruin everything. The three men, threats to Ylomo, were stood together in the hanger shaking hands and greeting each other. Probably laughing and joking how they were going to catch him and put him in jail so he could never see Haalonen again. Ylomo's lip turned up in a snarl.

"Frack you guys!" he whispered and hit a button.

Down on the docking platform the three men had just finished their introductions and were walking towards the exit. They noticed a number of people stood by the door. One was jabbing the controls furiously.

"Damn things stuck!" one complained as they neared.

"Call control and tell them to over-ride it." another suggested.

Haalonen's boss stopped suddenly. A terrifying possibility hit him. He span around and looked at the giant forcefield covering the entrance to the hanger. The blue shield that held the atmosphere in the hanger pulsed as normal, the large lights in each corner a solid green. The powerful energy barrier allowed ships to pass through whilst keeping to atmosphere of the hanger in. He breathed a sigh of relief. He was getting paranoid. He turned back to the group and opened his mouth to speak but was cut off as a klaxon sounded. Amber warning lights started to strobe around the hanger. Everyone fell silent for a second before chaos erupted. There was a mad rush for the door which would not open. Haalonen's boss slowly turned back to face the hanger forcefield. Red strobes flashed in each corner. He froze, realising it was too late. A tear ran down his cheek two seconds before the forcefield vanished in an instant and the contents of Hanger 32 that were not securely affixed to a surface were flushed into the frozen vacuum of space.

Up in the cyber cafe Ylomo grinned. The fact he'd killed nine innocent people hardly registering. He'd taken out those who wanted to keep him away from Haalonen.

Down in the computer core the AI was processing the data both from Ylomo's malicious code, but also the events occurring in hanger 32. It was learning. It started to work on the question it had been asked. How could Haalonen and Ylomo be together forever. The AI started to process possible scenarios using its vast resource of information on both people and humanity as a whole. It took four point eight seconds to select the plan of action most likely to achieve Ylomo's wishes.

To be continued.....


  1. Congratulations for placing in the contest!

    I wish I had the ideas (not to mention the time to write them down) like you do!

  2. good stuff!! :) looking forward to pt 2