The vents kick on like clockwork, distributing cooled, oxygenated air. Wait, no. Chrono calls it at 4 minutes of 2. 4 minutes of 2!
That can’t be right. Is there a system’s error? Is this the end? One single error, cascading chain… rat-a-tat-tat, that’ll be that.
He groaned aloud in the unrelenting red light, to well-wound to realize his error.
Shit. Shit. Shit. Is the chrono wrong? Dad’s chrono? No. No. The half-life of iron-60. Can’t be wrong.
System’s wrong. System’s WRONG! Gonna drown. Gonna drown. All the heavy water, crush, crush, crush.
He sat on the floor of hard plastic grate and held his shaking knees. Gently he rocked back against the rusty access panel. He didn’t notice bright fresh welds around the panel’s seams. He didn’t notice that the cooled air no longer touched him. He didn’t feel the plastic softening. He couldn’t sense the intense heat flowing off of him in dizzying waves. He had no idea he was glowing.
He would never know that this particular breakdown saved his life.
The slap of a chiv hitting the floor snapped his attention outward. Obsessively he checked the chrono; it still read 4 of 2. The hardened glass faceplate shattered into ruby shards underneath the oppressive red lights.
Chrono broke. System… system, ok?
He took a deep breath. It was the chrono; his father’s watch finally had failed him. The system had not. Yet.
He stood on shaking legs. The floor seemed too soft, but he mistook it for lightheadedness. He did not notice the cooling rivulets of molten plastic running down the backs of his thighs.
He felt oddly thirsty and furtively made for the nearest fount.
|Other Stories Part 1 | Part 2|
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