Chapter Five | Stuck Station

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5.01 - Darkness

May 18 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

Chapter Five

Having weighed every alternative, it is my learned and considered opinion — please understand, I say this without remorse or equivocation that Containment Facility One sucks.

Lar’Gael, Revered Kwisidian Ambassador
and Stuck Station Captain No. 14,440,028

Daniel saw only blackness. A stench stung his nostrils.

What happened? Where am I?

He couldn’t remember …

Everything flooded back Jeska. Alitma. The Cannon. The Kep Effect. The Afterthought. His friends.  Darkness.

He shuddered involuntarily and couldn't seem to stop.

I’m dead, Daniel thought. I'm dead. I’m dead and my friends are dead and this must be Hell.

He considered the idea for a moment, then dismissed it.

This place feels too real to be hell. Plus, it smells like an uncleaned hospital toilet. Hell's supposed to smell like ... smoke? Fire?

The stench faded away.

Daniel stood perfectly still, waiting for his body to finish shaking.

When it stopped, Daniel patted his torso, his arms and his legs. He found no injuries.

Actually, he felt great. Better than he had in a long time.

More proof that this probably isn’t hell, he thought. ... I hope.

He stomped his feet, testing the feel of the ground. It was spongy and soft.

He noticed he was wearing shoes. He hadn’t been wearing shoes before.

“Is anyone there?” he yelled. "Hello?"

He decided that wherever he was, it wasn't big enough to have an echo.

“Hello?!” he yelled, louder this time.

He turned in a complete circle, hoping to catch a glimpse of any kind of light source. There was nothing.

“Hello?" he called. “Trak? Rachel? Anyone?”

Then, he asked reluctantly, “Alitma?”

No response.

A voice pierced the darkness.

6 responses so far

5.02 - Introduction

May 19 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

At least, it sounded like a voice.

It was muffled and indistinct, but the noise had the cadence of language.

And even though every word was incomprehensible, somehow the speaker, as Daniel now thought of it, exuded an air of malice.

This made Daniel nervous.

The voice paused for a moment. Then it uttered a short series of sounds.

“What?” Daniel asked.

The voice repeated the phrase.

“I don’t understand,” he said. Why isn’t my translator working? Daniel wondered.

The voice repeated the phrase five more times.

Before it could repeat the phrase a sixth time, a chime rang softly, and the voice vanished.

A new voice, this one cheery and — thankfully — understandable, began to to speak.

"Welcome to the Containment Facility One!” said the cheery voice, coming from all around him. “We of the —”

What followed sounded like three buckets of water dropped on the floor, one after the other.

“—thank you for volunteering on a project that we know will benefit all life.”

Without coming off fake or forced, the voice radiated joy — the joy that only comes when one is really and truly happy.

This made Daniel more nervous.

“We’re sure you want to get settled in,” the cheery voice continued. “But first let’s turn on the lights.”

The room grew brighter slowly, giving Daniel eyes a chance to adjust.

The first thing he saw was a banner of beautiful white fabric hanging four feet in front of him.

Dotted with vivid spatters of blue, red, and purple, the banner read, “Congratulations!” in three of the four human dialects Daniel understood.

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5.03 - One Hundred

May 20 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

“Congratulations for what?” Daniel whispered.

The voice said nothing.

Suffused light emanated from the ceiling. In the glow, Daniel could see he was standing in a small, empty room with pearlescent walls.

Each wall was bare.

Definitely not hell, he thought. I mean, I guess hell could have white walls and —why do I keep thinking that? I’m not in hell!

Looking down, Daniel was surprised to see that he was now not only wearing shoes—they were white slippers—but also sporting a blue robe with the word ‘Visitor’ embroidered on its left breast.

He saw no sign of his regular clothes.

“Where am I?” he asked.

“We are sure you have many questions,” the voice said. “And you rightly deserve answers, given how hard you’ve trained over the past decade.”

“What?” Daniel said.

“Please follow the blue line on the ground to the Greeting Room, where your tour will begin. Then we will answer your questions.” 

“I don’t understand,” Daniel said, though he got the feeling he was listening to a recording.

The voice went silent again.

On the ground in front of him, a line appeared and stretched toward a wall. The wall suddenly grew an opening.

Daniel was not surprised. In a post-cloud society, shifting architecture was common.   

He stepped through the newly formed door.

The “Greeting Room” looked the same as the room he had just left — with a single difference.

One entire wall was a rainbow of paint splashes, a massive multi-colored artwork that also happened to spell out a message.

With a little concentration, Daniel saw that the artist’s message was the same as the one the cheery voice had said earlier: “Welcome to Containment Facility One.”

The words would have been easier to read if someone hadn’t scribbled across the entire thing with black ink.

In jagged five-foot tall letters, the vandal had written an unfamiliar two-word phrase that, unfortunately, Daniel would soon become very familiar with.

Stuck Station.

5 responses so far

5.04 - Tour Guide

May 23 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

“What’s Stuck Station?” Daniel said, staring at the artwork/sign. Both the graffiti and the painting looked new.

“Sorry, I’m not familiar with that phrase,” the cheery voice said. “Oops. I mean, please hold all questions until the end of the tour.”

Ok, so it’s not a recording, Daniel thought. Most likely an Aye or an organic. And, it can make mistakes. Or, at least, simulate mistakes.

“Where am I?” Daniel asked.

“Welcome to Containment Facility One!” the voice said again, with the exact inflection it had used earlier.

“We of the—” The voice made the same splashing sounds too—“thank you for volunteering on a project that we know will benefit all life.”

Now Daniel was sure it was an Aye.

“What is Containment Facility One?” Daniel asked.

“Welcome to Containment Facility One! We —

“Never mind. Do you have a name?”

“Thanks for asking! I’m Tour Guide,” it said. “You can call me ‘a Tour Guide.’ Or just ‘Tour Guide’. ... Oh, and please hold all questions until the end of the tour.”

The voice’s enthusiasm was wearing thin.

I need a drink, Daniel thought. He reached for the flask in his front coat pocket … and remembered he wasn’t wearing a coat.

Daniel frantically checked every inch of his new outfit.

When his hand found a stuffed pocket in the left-side lining of  the robe, he sighed with relief.

Everything was still there. His flask and— actually that was all he had had in his pockets before. It was enough.

For some reason, whoever ran Containment Facility One hadn't taken the heirloom away.

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5.05 - Emergency codes

May 24 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

Daniel took a big swig of his flask and felt the warmth works it way down to his stomach.

He let out a groan of pleasure.

Wait ... wasn’t this almost empty? he thought.

He shook the flask. It was full.

Before he could consider it further, the cheery voice spoke again.

“When you are ready to begin the orientation tour, please say so. Or take your time. No hurry. We understand if you’d like to rest.”

“Where are my friends?” Daniel asked.

“As I said, the question and answer portion of the tour takes place at the end,” the voice said. “We apologize for the inconvenience. We find that many beings have their questions answered while taking the tour. If you absolutely must have an answer right now, please state the specific override emergency code you learned during week 72 of your training.”

“Uhhh,” Daniel said, racking his brain. “Is it ... emergency code?”

The voice was silent. Then it asked, “Emergency code what?”

“Emergency code ... one?” he guessed.

“I’m sorry. That code is not relevant. I’m not detecting any fires onboard.”

Daniel, who’d always had a stubborn streak, figured he could guess the password and get some answers.

“Emergency code 4082?”

“I'm sorry. That code is not relevant. No hull breaches detected.”


“No internal space-time fractures detected.”


“No roving gangs of flesh-eating Rinasoots detected.”

“48394839438183473483219537854443728?" Daniel said, rattling off numbers until he ran out of breath.

“No sentient anarchistic two-dimensional food-processors detected.”

"There's actually a code for that?"

"Of course."

This place is certainly prepared, Daniel thought.

“You must have forgotten the correct code,” the voice said, and it didn’t sound annoyed. “Don't worry. We’ll remind you as soon as you complete the orientation.”

“Where’s my ship?” Daniel asked, doggedly continuing.

“The question and answer portion of —”

“Where is Jeska?”

This time, the voice did not respond.

5 responses so far

5.06 - Food court

May 25 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

“Is Jeska-Bel DotCom here? Is she here?"

No response.

“IS SHE HERE?! Tell me! Now! Tell me now!”


Then, the deep, incomprehensible voice Daniel had heard earlier began to say something over and over. A single word or syllable.

It meant nothing to Daniel. Then the sound was gone.

“What was that?” he asked.

The Tour Guide remained silent.

“Where is Jeska?” Daniel asked one more time.

Still more silence.

Daniel let the matter slide. For now.

“Fine,” he said wearily. “Let’s take the tour.”

“Wonderful! Before we begin,” the voice said, “are you hungry?”

Daniel was about to say no, but his stomach violently disagreed.

“I’m starving,” he said.

There was a flash of light and the terrible stench returned. The smell made his eyes water.

When his vision cleared, Daniel was standing in the largest room he’d ever seen. Even the moon-sized Cassandra Cloud Facility didn’t have anything to compare to it.

He looked in every direction and couldn’t see the chambers walls.

If it weren’t for the rows and rows of food, he would have thought it was one of those math virtuals he’d experienced as a child— the simulations his Aye teacher had used to show him examples of infinite spaces.

In every direction as far as he could see, shining containers of bubbling, simmering, roasting meals sat on polished tables of blue and white material.

The mix of smells was overwhelming. Sweet, bitter, noxious, the conflicting odors brought to mind a thousand meals in a thousand nonhuman cafeterias.

This place was bigger, of course.

The Food Court of The Gods, Daniel thought.

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5.07 - Cheeseburger, not in paradise

May 26 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

Despite the acres of food, there were only five types of meals.

A sealed container of bluish gas, a plate of gray rocks, a transparent cage of jumping insects, a bowl of what Daniel’s duster training told him was some kind of Mek lubricant, and a tray of ...

Daniel’s heart raced as he took a closer look at the fifth item.

Hurrying to the nearest table, he took in the smell of something he hadn’t eaten since the Afterthought’s food forge stopped working right six weeks earlier.


Piles and piles of them.

There had to be hundreds. With lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and five or six other kinds of toppings.

Not bothering to check with his augmem if the food was safe to eat, he grabbed one sandwich and took a ravenous bite.

He closed his eyes in ecstasy.

This place isn’t so bad, he thought. He was wrong.

Then Daniel spit the mouthful to the floor in shock.

The chunk of food hit the ivory ground and disappeared. Daniel caught the faint haze of a Cloud as it broke down the burger bite and spirited the atoms away.

“Tour guide!” Daniel screamed.

There wasn’t a problem with the meal. The burger was perfect with plenty of special sauce.

It’s just that Daniel had, to his horror, noticed something that should have been obvious immediately — he was no longer in the same room he had been before. And the architecture hadn’t been cloud shifted.

Terrified, Daniel knew that he had been teleported.

Which, in the 28th century, is a lot scarier than it sounds.

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5.075 - A really short post

May 27 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

“You've killed me,” Daniel said to the cheery voice. “You’ve killed me!"

There’s no chance I’ll be a Flitter, he thought, panicking. I’m not that lucky!

And Daniel cursed the friendly-sounding Tour Guide.

Please see note in comments.

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5.08 - Teleporter?

May 30 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

“I have flitted, right?” Daniel asked, when he had A) calmed down and B) noticed he wasn’t disintegrating.

“Yes, I flitted you from Greeting Room 407 to Cafeteria 407,” the Tour Guide said. “Flitted is the word for teleportation technology in your dialect, correct?”

“I’ve flitted?” Daniel asked again, stunned.

“Judging from the surprised expression on your face and the profanity-laden tirade you aimed at me a few moments ago, I think you must be under the impression that teleporter technology is fatal,” the Tour Guide said. “Speaking of profanity, you mentioned the word "trumble." Does that still mean the posterior of a horse?”

“All flit tech is fatal,” Daniel said, ignoring the Aye's question.

“That may be true for less stable version of the technology. However, all Containment Facility One teleporters are perfectly safe.”

“I don’t believe it,” Daniel said.

“Our crew must be protected at all times,” Tour Guide said. “The tech has been tested. Would you like to continue the tour?”

“If I say yes,” said Daniel, still coming to the grips with the possibility of a nonlethal teleporter, “from now on, I want to take a lift or a gyro or whatever other means of transportation you have around here."

"Don’t flit me. Ever," he added.

“I understand your reluctance,” Tour Guide said. “However, while the station’s teleportation system is fully operation, other modes of transit are still under construction. So, when you have finished your meal, you may begin walking.”

“Fine,” Daniel said. “How far away is the first stop on our ‘tour?’”

“40,000 miles,” The Tour Guide said.

“Crap,” Daniel said.

4 responses so far

5.09 - Flitters

May 30 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

Stuck On: Teleportation

Discovered by hundreds of thousands of species over the years, teleportation technology doesn’t work.

Oh, things can teleport. The problem is they just keep teleporting. Forever.

The typical teleportation device instantly moves an object from one place to another. It also produces a soft flit sound in certain atmospheres, hence the word “flitting.”

Unfortunately, because of a quantum mechanics quirk, the second the object loses physical contact with the teleportation device (whether the device is a wristband, platform, or vehicle) the object starts flitting randomly through the universe.

This aimless teleportation is always fatal because the majority of space is fatal.

The object (or user) may find itself burning in a lava field, suffocating in the vacuum of space, melting in an ocean of acid, or spaghettifying within the event horizon of a black hole.

For example, a volunteer test subject at the Karga Research Lab planned to flit to a diplomatic meeting. He arrived in perfect condition … but the second he removed the device, he ended up in a cave full of poisonous birds.

Surprisingly, before his death, he was able to gain a few administrative concessions from the death canaries.

If the volunteer had said, “I don’t want to teleport randomly” and opted to continue holding the device, within seconds he would have begun falling apart.

After the initial use, the teleportation field becomes unstable. It tears things apart, flitting dime-sized pieces of the object to who-knows-where.

Intelligent lifeforms notice the effect within seconds— usually from the searing pain that comes from the removal of a chunk of flesh.

So the only options were random lethal flitting or painful disintegration  And that’s why Daniel and most beings considered teleportation a dead-end technology.

There have been rare cases, however — the odds are one hundred trillion to one — where a sentient user suffers no ill effects from continued teleporter use.

No disintegration and no random jumps.

That being is a flitter, a creature of almost legendary power, able to travel the stars without a ship.

Only a handful of flitters roam the universe. They do what they want. Go wherever they want.  

The dangers of the teleportation don’t stop adventurers from seeking flitterdom—especially since the tech is cheap and easy to manufacture.

Hundreds of corporations have tried to develop a safe version of the device, and the junkyards are littered with discarded teleporters prototypes.

All human children dream of being a flitter.

But most, like Daniel, have the good sense not to try.

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5.10 - Safe tours

May 31 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

Daniel didn't want to to walk 40,000 miles, so he sat back down and finished off three cheeseburgers.

He took his time.

Either the teleporter works, or I have an hour to live. Either way, I’m getting something to eat.

While he wolfed down the meal, Daniel tried to ask the Aye more questions about the teleporters and his friends and his ship.

Each time the voice repeated the “Hold your questions to the end of the tour” spiel.

When, after an hour, Daniel found his body still very much intact, he decided the voice had been telling the truth: this place had working teleporters.

That'll take some time to get used to.

With nothing else to do, Daniel decided to take the tour.

“There's nothing dangerous on this little trip, is there?” Daniel asked, just to make sure.

“Not for a being with your high level of training!” the Tour Guide said with programmed ease. “The tour consists of a flit to a number of facility amenities. After that, there will be a short presentation, a glimpse of Entity 107, a meetup with the rest of the crew, and finally an initiation ceremony!”

“What initiation ceremony?”

The voice didn’t respond.

“Any chance you can tell me what Entity 107 is?”

Surprisingly, the voice did respond to that.

“Entity 107 is —” but then the voice just stopped.

Daniel waited a few second and then broke the silence: “Hello? Tour Guide?”

“Welcome to Containment Facility—”

Daniel cut off the peppy welcome message.

“Yes, yes,” said Daniel, a little annoyed. “Tell me what Entity 107 is.”

“Entity 107 is ... Welcome to Containment Facility One—”

“Great,” Daniel said.

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5.11 - Long time no see

Jun 01 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

“Hey, I don't need the welcome speech again," Daniel said. "Let's just take the tour.”

“Excellent!” the voice said happily. “First, we’ll visit the mariWARNING: EMERGENCY OVERRIDE! EMERGENCY OVERRIDE! EMERGENCY OVERRIDE!”

Then the voice went silent.

“Daniel! Daniel is that you?” said another voice. It came from everywhere, just like Tour Guide's voice had.

It was Jeska.

Jeska! Daniel's mind shouted at him. She’s not dead! She’s here. She’s here and she’s alive. She’s alive!

He was elated.

This whole thing was worth it! I was right! … I guess Rachel owes me a drink… And hey, Trak owes me a drink, too! … If either of them are alive.

When he saw the live image of Jeska’s face flash onto his eyescreens, he forgot about his friends.

She looked the same as she did in her last message. Maybe a bit more a haggard. And was that a little bit of blood on her cheek?

It didn’t matter. She was still breathtaking.

“Jeska —”

“You came, you came!" Jeska said, with a brilliant smile. "I can’t believe it!"

“How…” Daniel said, struggling to form coherent thoughts. This was the first time he had spoken with her in six long years.

“I’ll answer your questions. Don’t worry,” Jeska said. "But I can't speak for long."

Jeska looked lovely, Daniel thought, but she had desperation in her eyes.

And then, with that same mischievous smirk that had stolen his heart years ago, she said, “Speaking of which, you sure took your time getting here.”

13 responses so far

5.12 - Frazzled

Jun 02 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

“Thanks,” Daniel said, too frazzled to come up with a witty retort.

“No, thank you. Thank you, thank you!” Jeska said, with a genuine smile. 

“Jeska, are you hurt? Are you in danger?”

“Injured but not too bad. Cloud’s not working.”

That scared Daniel. Without a cloud, Jeska wouldn't have access to advanced medical treatment if her condition worsened.

But, now that he knew she wasn’t in immediate danger, he could try to play it cool.

“So … how have you been?” Daniel said nonchalantly, holding back a hundred questions.

He wanted to scream "Where are we? Why are we here? Why am I wearing a blue, fuzzy robe? Why did you leave me? Why did you leave me?!"

Instead, he ran a hand through his hair and hoped he looked presentable. He did not.


“Wait,” Daniel said. “Are my friends alive?”

“Trak and Rachel? They came with you?!” Jeska said and looked sad.

“Of course,” he said.

“Then they’re going through orientation too.”

“But they are alive?"

"Yes. And—"

"How did we get here? … and how does an Aye take orientation?” Daniel asked.

“The ship’s admin mind flitted you all over here the second you got too close," she said.

Then she let out a small laugh as she remembered something. "And they'll give Rachel a new—"

A metal clang emanating from the left side of the eyescreen drew Jeska's attention, causing her to jerk her head toward the sound.

After she turned back to face him, Daniel saw that the desperation had returned to her eyes.

“It’s coming,” she whispered.

5 responses so far

5.13 - Preparations

Jun 03 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

Ten minutes earlier

Jeska’s life was in danger.

She was dehydrated, malnourished, and injured — with her medical cloud in forced hibernation.

The threat of death had to be real; otherwise the plan would fail.

Understandably nervous, Jeska stood in front of Daniel's ugly hulk of a ship in Visitor’s Bay 2-C5 and waited to ruin her ex-boyfriend’s life.

The one man I ever actually cared about, she thought.

She sighed.

Wish I didn’t feel so terrible. Jeska said. … It’s probably better that I do. Otherwise, I’m a sociopath.

She took some comfort in that thought. And then the fact that she took comfort in that thought made her feel worse.

Anderson and Riox should have come to see me off.

But Anderson and Riox had already said their goodbyes. Anderson gave a funny speech, and Riox burped his planet’s anthem. Both farewells were touching in their own way.

They had also begged her not to do this “despicable thing.”

Jeska had shed tears of real sorrow at their moving words.

But she would not change her mind.

Even as she looked at the hideous and probably dangerous ship that Daniel had flown, she steeled herself for what had to happen next.

Just the type of ship Daniel likes to fix up, she thought. Wonder why he didn't make any modifications?

The station’s clouds had fixed it up as best they could, but still, it was more of a landfill than a spaceship.

It looked like a mound of well-polished garbage.

I have no clue if it's safe, she thought. But it's better than staying here.

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5.14 - Second thoughts?

Jun 06 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

“Don’t leave, Jeska,” said a pleading voice above her.

She craned her neck to look at Prnei, who was dark green with fear. He stood on a section of the ceiling the clouds had lowered for him.

“You don’t need to worry,” she said, lying. “I’ll be fine.”

“You may die,” Prnei said.

“Listen,” Jeska said trying her best to sound confident. “You could come with me. Daniel might bring his two friends and that means —”

“I will not. It is shameful.”

Jeska sighed. The others had said the same.

Initially Prnei hadn’t wanted to help her at all — until she “confided” in him that human beings could die from boredom.

Not only that, Jeska said, she was “dangerously close to the boredom-death” before she even arrived on Stuck Station.

Ever since then he’d helped her out.

Just as Trak could not pick up on sarcasm, Prnei had trouble understanding when beings were lying.

“Then, goodbye, Prnei.” she said. “And don't worry, I'll visit sometime."

"That would be nice."

Jeska wished Prnei didn't believe her. She was never coming back.

Then, looking over Prnei’s sad face, she felt a pang of conscience. And, too her surprise, she promised herself that she’d come back and free them all.

I mean it, she thought.

“The second I return, I'm moving all of you out of here,” Jeska said resolutely.

“Please do. Farewell, my friend. May you find peace.”

“You too,” Jeska said.

“I hope I will be good friends with the beings you ensnare.”

This made Jeska feel even worse.

She watched Prnei scurry to his position and wished she didn’t feel so afraid. Or like so much human garbage.

5 responses so far

5.15 - An unwanted goodbye

Jun 07 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

Jeska ordered the administrative mind to dim the lights in the visitor's bay.

Suddenly Jeska felt something wet wrap around her.

She let out a small scream, then realized Prnei had come back to give her one last hug.

“Do not forget me,” Prnei said quickly.

Then he hurled himself back at the ceiling and vanished into the darkness.

“That was very sweet,” said the deep, craggy voice of the Destroyer. “Don’t I get a goodbye?”

“No, but you can go straight to the hell,” Jeska said.

“That’s kind of a goodbye.”

“Shut up.”

“I do have a farewell message for you. “

“Not listening.”

“I wish you the best, Jeska. Truly.”

“… whatever.”

“Actually, I wanted to congratulate you. You’re decision to choose your own happiness above that of another member of your species gives me a whole new respect for you."

Jeska raised an eybrow.

"Kidding, I'll never respect any of you insects."

He paused for a moment before adding.

"Oh, and thanks for giving me another play thing.  I’m sure he’ll be a lot more fun than you.”

For a moment, Jeska's guilt made her consider scrapping the whole plan.

“And wherever you go,” the Destroyer continued, “whatever happens, always remember this: Let me out.”

“Aaaarrrgggghhhhh,” Jeska screamed and knew she would do anything — and betray anyone — to leave this horrible place.

The Destroyer chuckled and said, “Had to get that in one more time. Besides —”

“Prnei, do it now!” Jeska yelled angrily.

Something sharp hit her lower leg. She couldn't see but she knew she was now bleeding profusely.

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5.16 - Hopes

Jun 08 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

“Emergency Code 50840,” Jeska said, repeating the phrase Prnei had taught her. "Interrupt Orientation Tour Guide in Cafeteria 407.”

A chirping sound from the facility admin let her know it had followed through.

Now she just had to reach Daniel’s personal link.

Jeska went through her augmem contact list, searching through the names of friends and family she hadn’t seen in years.

She stopped when she found Daniel S. Wei.

It was still there. She had wanted to remove it when she left him, but something stopped her.

Maybe because you —Jeska silenced that thought before it could get any further.

She ordered her augmem to connect her with Daniel.

The Destroyer said, “I'm excited. This is the closest thing we get to entertainment around here. Not only that … I really like the idea of you dying. That would make my da—”

The Destroyer’s voice began to grow indistinct and muffled as the Station’s Visitor Safety Protocol System — already in place in Cafeteria 407 — went into effect in the visitor’s bay.  

Jeska’s eyescreens suddenly showed a face she hadn’t seen in years. It was smudged with nanogrit, like always, but it was friendly and likeable.

Her heart jumped. She quickly pushed those feelings away.

“Daniel? Daniel is that you?” she said, hobbling to her position behind his ship.

As she limped, she was thankful that, before she shut it down, she had ordered her medicloud to turn off her pain receptors.

Sorry, Daniel, Jeska thought. Wish I didn’t have to do this.

She continued lying through her teeth, hoping Prnei remembered the code phrase, hoping the plan wasn't fatal, and hoping, most of all, that someday Daniel would forgive her.

One response so far

5.17 - Unexpected disconnect

Jun 13 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

Back to now

Through the auditory connection to his eyescreens, Daniel heard footsteps rushing closer.

Judging from the sound, the oncoming ... thing was moving toward Jeska fast and hard.

Daniel couldn't see it as the eyescreens only showed a closeup of Jeska's face.

But whatever it was obviously terrified her. She had that crazed fearful look she used to give Daniel when he talked about marriage.

“Daniel, you have to hurry,” she whispered. “I’ve held on as long as I can. It’s getting closer. Please Daniel! Hurry!”

“Just tell me how!”

“You need to get the Visitors Bay 2-C5! That’s where they took your ship. The code is ‘Emergency Code 744384.’ 7-4-4-3-8-4!”

Daniel nodded, though he had no idea what was happening. “Wait, who is they? What is this place? Why …”

“Please, just get here as soon as you can!” she said.

Suddenly, something knocked her to the ground and the eyescreens went dark.

But Daniel could still hear her.

She screamed and screamed ... then her voice stopped abruptly.

In the silence, Daniel thought he heard her gasp his name.

Then there was nothing.

Link chat experienced unexpected disconnect, read the glowing red message on his eyescreens. Initiating eyescreen diagnostic.

“Emergency code 744384!” Daniel yelled. He prayed he remembered the code correctly.

“I am detecting a dangerous lifeform in Visitors Bay 2-C5," said the cheery Tour Guide. "Emergency personnel have already been dispatched to that location. Are you sure you wish – ?"

“Yes!!” Daniel roared.

There was a terrible smell and a flash of light.

5 responses so far

5.18 - A little action

Jun 14 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

Daniel stood in the center of dark and vast room.

The only light came from a large unmoving shape in the distance.

It's the Afterthought! Daniel thought.

A part of Daniel felt a great sense of peace when he realized his ship was safe.

The rest of Daniel cursed that part for thinking about a garbage scow when he knew Jeska could be dying nearby.

He tried to reach her personal link.

Connection unavailable, his eyescreens read.

Looking in all directions, Daniel desperately called Jeska's name over and over.

Suddenly, with a shriek, something tackled him from behind, knocking him to the ground.

The landing was so jarring Daniel felt sick. He tried to push himself up, but the creature was heavy and held him in place.

Then Daniel heard the sound of tearing fabric.

The creature was slashing through his robe!

Daniel kept struggling; the creature continued its attack.

When he was still breathing after a few seconds, he realized the robe's fabric must have been tougher than it looked.

He thanked the gods for their mercy.

Relieved, angry, and scared, Daniel jammed an elbow into the creature as hard as he could.

It let out a short shriek and began to slash faster and harder, still desperate to dig up Daniel's back.

Daniel hit it again.  

The creature howled even louder. But it didn’t budge.

Daniel twisted his upper torso, trying to knock the creature  off balance.

It worked.

He heard the creature fall to the ground with a soggy thump.

With the weight off his back, Daniel rolled and, from his prone position, frantically kicked where he thought the creature might be.

One of the kicks connected, and the creature screeched again.

Then it was gone.

3 responses so far

5.19 - Missing memory

Jun 15 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

In the faint light of his dumpy ship, Daniel saw the reddish blur skitter quickly into the darkness.

Panting and afraid, Daniel lay completely still, listening to the thing recede. He could still hear its talons/claws scratching the floor as it moved away.

He still wasn't sure what it looked like.

Why couldn’t that Aye have sent me straight to my ship instead of – he paused and understood.

“Bravo, Tour Guide,” Daniel said softly. “What made you think it was a good idea to flit me three feet away from that thing?”

Tour Guide said nothing, which Daniel was actually thankful for.  Its cheery voice would have only aggravated him.

After pushing himself off the ground, he felt his back. The Creature had torn six gashes across the robe.

Daniel gave a tug at the tears, curious about the garment's tensile strength. To his surprise, he couldn’t rip it, no matter how hard he pulled.

Warily, he turned toward the glowing light of his ship in the distance.

Jeska might be there, he thought.

He ordered his augmem to fire up his night vision app to get a better examination of the area.

Augmem not found, read the message on his eyescreens.

Daniel didn't believe it, and again ordered it to follow his instructions.

Augmem not found.

Daniel was stunned.

Without his augmem, he only had access to the few biografted options that every human had at birth: his personal link (the mail box of the 28th century) and his translator (the … translation program of the 28th century.)

Losing his augmem, to Daniel, was more terrifying than the thought facing of the Creature again.

One response so far

5.20 - Buy now!

Jun 16 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

Stuck On: The Augmem

The augmem, a standard biografted device common in many alien cultures, has a long history, which is frankly very boring.

Daniel found his personal augmem on his birthplanet Fragged  (first mentioned in Love, metaphor and artificial suns).

Unfortunately, the story of Daniel finding and repairing the device isn’t any more interesting than the device's history.

So here's the flashy advertisement for the product instead:

Hey there, sentient!

What’s got you down?

You forget your hive-father’s hatching anniversary again?

Uh-oh, looks like you’ve brought shame upon your brood and your clan.

Don’t that beat all?

We know you wanted to remember, but try explaining that to the high court-council at your punishment consignment.

If you survive the battle with the Qud’aa wasps, why not consider one of Corp’s many fine Augmented Memory Devices? – Augmem for short.

They give you instant recall of all life-events. Forever.

Our latest model is the Corp J-7 augmem, a handy gizmo that gives you the freedom of knowing that everything you hear, see, fleft and experience is accessible again and again for all time.

Oh, and don't worry. We don’t have access to your memories. Only you do! No one else! Especially not a data-gathering Aye on the Corp headquarters planet!

Not only will the J-7 Augmem keep your mind running smoothly, it will manage your ever-increasing collection of biografted apps: translation programs, banking systems, environmental adaptations, and even Halo 58,002!

Link message us now, and we’ll throw in a 10,000-year warranty.

We have several affordable pricing options that won’t cost you a foreclaw or a eyestalk.

C’mon, you know it’ll be worth it when you hear your brood-father say, “This one is allowed to live another moon-month!”

The Corp J-7 Augmem: Never forget.

Warning: Without constant updates from the Corp linknet, augmem functionality could be diminished. Make sure to set your augmem to automatically update every seven picoseconds.

The Corp linknet is accessible anywhere in the universe. Our Link address is 7494449204402048484820.

This message brought to you by Corp: Products by Humans, For Everyone.

5 responses so far

5.21 - Swag

Jun 21 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

Just get to Jeska, he told himself. Deal with missing memories later.

Daniel began running toward the Afterthought in the darkness, listening for the Creature’s shriek.

His eyes were slowly adjusting to the gloom – too slowly, in fact.

After a few minutes at full sprint, he tripped over a pile of papery things and fell into them headfirst.

As he pushed himself to his feet uninjured, he figured out what they were – and what they were made no sense.

He picked one up to be sure.

It was a thin, flat, papery disk about four inches in diameter.  In the dim light it looked for all the galaxy like a beer coaster.

You got booze on the brain, he thought.

but it really does look like a beer coaster! he countered.

The pile held thousands of coasters, and each one had writing on it.

It was too dark to read.

“Daniel …” he heard a voice call weakly from near his ship.

“Jeska?!” he called.

He threw the coaster to the ground and began running again.

As he neared the Afterthought, he realized he had developed a certain fondness for his ship.

After a few hundred yards, he tripped over something else in the darkness. Quickly he regained his footing.

He didn’t stop to examine it, but he caught a glimpse as he got closer to the light.

It was another mound, and it wasn’t coasters.

Ok, that’s even more ridiculous, he thought as he continued his run. I think I just slipped on a pile of t-shirts!

3 responses so far

5.22 - Stacks

Jun 27 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

As Daniel ran toward his ship, the Afterthought seemed to grow larger and brighter.

In the dull glow of his ship's emergency lighting, he saw that – to his surprise – stacks of "coasters" and stacks of folded "t-shirts" lay everywhere.

He still wasn't 100 percent sure if he had guessed right, but the objects sure looked like t-shirts and coasters.

That's when Daniel decided something.

This place makes no sense, he thought, still rushing to his ship at full speed.

Though he didn't slow to examine them, he got a good sense of what the stacks looked like as they blurred past.

Each stack varied in height. Some stretched above into the darkness, and some stood only two or three inches tall.

The coaster stacks looked like white cylindrical columns, and the t-shirts stacks looked like blue rectangular blocks.

Every so often Daniel would come to a dense concentration of stacks, and would need to jump over the tiny ones and sprint around the taller ones.

And finally, after what felt like ages, he found himself 100 feet from the Afterthought. He slowed to a stop.

Thanks to his medicloud, he didn’t feel tired at all, even after 6.5 miles;

He sighed in frustration – The medicloud had also rid his bloodstream of alcohol. Again.

Daniel quickly rectified that, and then returned the flask to his pocket.

Cloud's getting better at harshing my buzz, Daniel thought, using some very old Earth slang.

He worried that soon his hourly eyeopener would have no more kick to it than water.

Forget that and focus! he thought. She needs you!

“Jeska?” he called quietly, wary of alerting the creature to his presence.

“Daniel!” he heard her scream again.

6 responses so far

5.23 - Voices

Jun 27 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

Jeska’s voice had come from a spot beneath the aft section of his ship.

It sounded like she was near one of the repellors – the electromagnetic field emitters that acted as the Afterthought's landing struts in a non-freefall environment.

He could hear the repellors humming in the otherwise silent bay, keeping the ship a good 30 feet off the ground.


She's still nearby.

Then he heard the creature shriek.

... It's nearby too.

He spun around, looking for either his lover or her attacker. But there were too many stacks, obscuring his view.

Gotta be quiet. Don't want that thing to know I'm coming.

As silently as he could, he darted from stack to stack, hoping they’d give him a little cover.

He stopped behind a tower of T-shirts and stealthily looked around the corner.


Daniel noted absently that both the coasters and t-shirts had the words “Containment Facility One Staff” written on them in beautiful calligraphy.

He knew he should be making some sort of rescue plan.

But, as he turned another corner of coasters, all he could think about was what he was going to say to her.

“So … how have you been?” had been one of his first coherent statements.

And it made me sound like a complete trumble, he thought angrily. Have to think of something beautiful.

I love you! ... No. Can’t say that. Didn’t even drop that bomb when we were lovers.

So come here often? ... Too cliché.

You’re a pretty as the day you left me. ... Too sad.

Can you believe the food here? … Too weird.

Ugh, nothing sounds good.

3 responses so far

5.24 - Lines

Jun 28 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

Daniel missed his augmem.

With it, he could have easily remembered the work of a thousand poets that he had passed off as his own during his  relationship with Jeska.

Daniel knew she knew the words weren't his, but she said she appreciated the effort.

Unfortunately, without his augmem he could barely remember a single phrase.

Nervous and worried, the best his frazzled mind could come up with was

Shall I compare thee to a summers day? Let me count the ways: A love downloaded and uploaded again. Row, row, row your boat, and I'll be your crying shoulder of cloudless climes and starry skies.

That doesn’t make sense, he thought glumly.

Daniel was out of practice.

Life without an augmem's going to take some getting used to.

Then he heard Jeska scream again.

That’s enough worrying, he decided. And enough stealth.

He stopped skulking behind the stacks and resumed sprinting.

As he ran, he unintentionally bumped rows of coasters and t-shirts. Some teetered and fell, knocking down others in a domino cascade.

He stopped and listened for her voice.

While waiting, he glanced up at the rusty ship above him. This close to the aft, the Afterthought’s repellors sounded like a swarm of bees.

When he couldn’t stand it any more, he called out, “Jeska!”


The voice came from a few yards away, from behind a collection of stacks only a foot apart from each other.

I missed you, he thought as he ran. That could work! I missed you. Simple. Effective.

Relieved, he put all his mental effort into weaving between the stacks as quickly as possible.

“I’m almost there!” he yelled.  "One more second."

Daniel pushed through the final columns … and stood face-to-face with the creature, its undulating form blood-red in the light of the Afterthought.

“Daniel!” it screamed in a perfect mimic of Jeska’s voice.

Stuck Station: Human Poetry

The human poems Daniel butchers (in order of apperance):

Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer's Day – William Shakespeare, 16th century.

How Do I Love Thee? – Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 19th century.

Processed Heart – Altirana 3.5,  23rd century.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat – Unknown, 19th century.

I'll Be – Edwin McCain, 20th century.

She Walks in Beauty – Lord Byron, 19th century.

12 responses so far

Intermission, No. 1: Story time with the Destroyer

Jun 24 2011 Published by under Chapter Five

And now another installment of Story Time with the Destroyer:

Once upon a time there was a universe called Universe 2840A8.

The parents in that universe used to say, "If you don't eat your vegetables, some horrible monster will eat you."

And their tale worked wonders.

The children of that universe wolfed down their vegetables and grew up to be healthy and strong adults.

Then I ate them.

Them and their parents and their entire galaxy and every single mote of their whole delicious  existence.

The end.


The moral of the story? Let me out.

That was terrible. Just terrible.

So what?  Let me out, let me out, let me out, let me out, let me out, let me out, let me out --

And it just goes on like that. Anyway, thanks for reading Stuck Station. Check back later for more updates.

Oh, and there will be no more missing posts.


Shut up.

2 responses so far