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The Fall
#1
Cassius awoke to the steady beep of his suit's atmosphere sensor letting him know he was now in a vacuum. Silencing the alarm he looked ahead at the giant plasma control coil gripped by the crab-like claws extending 10 meters ahead of his craft and smiled. Beyond that was the coil's former residence, an ore transport that was past even his skills to save. And in the intervening inter-planetary space floated what appeared to be his emergency rations and medical kit. Looking to his left confirmed that the storage module that usually housed those items was wide open.
"well” he said to himself ”that's what I get for using explosive decompression for extra umph I suppose.”
"That, and a bump on the head.” he added noticing the growing ache at the base of his skull.
Closing the bubble that acted as both the front screen and main entrance to the small craft Cassius noticed the transport, huge though it was, was starting to look very small. Not surprising considering the engine was on full power. Throttling down Cassius brought his prize closer to examine it. Fortunately the violent manner in which it was removed from its housing hadn't damaged anything other than the mounting points, and they would need changing anyway before the coil was installed in its new home.
Tucking the claws and his latest acquisition tight against the belly of his ship Cassius programmed the auto pilot for home. Even at full power Predas was two hours away, so he reclined his chair, opaced the front screen and projected the latest episode of his favourite comedy show 'The Aella Report'.


"You still flying that ugly piece of junk Cass?” Rhodrigo's voice blared over comms as Cassius landed in a side hanger of the DSY.
"I'll have you know that Sally here is a beautiful masterpiece of function over form. And she still looks better than you.” Cassius retorted, knowing full well that the younger engineer's sharp features, olive complexion and flowing golden hair meant that he got appraising looks wherever he went.
"I'm hurt dude, I think you'll have to buy me a drink to make up for that one. And tell you what, after that I'll buy the one I owe you for managing to find anything worthwhile in that heap of junk out there.”
"Sounds like a plan my man. Let me get Sally stowed away and have a quick shower first. Met you at O'Flanegans in an hour?”
"O'Flanegans huh? I'll get us a Glozzum pipe each as well. See you there!”


O'Flanegans was an Irish themed establishment, which meant it had 'genuine fake wood panelling' on the walls and 'real imitation leather' on it's bench seats. More importantly for the clientele it attracted, it served Glozzum and had great views of Predas Spaceport and the stars beyond. Rhodrigo and Cass were on their third beer each, having found some more reasons why they owed one to one another, and were busy setting the world to rights when they saw the mining platform out the window.
"That's getting awfully close don't you think?” Rhodrigo asked, gesturing with his pipe.
"Yeah, and moving fast...” responded Cassius suddenly gaining ghastly insight. “Shit! It's happening again!” He yelled, jumping up and heading for the door.
"Where you off to?” asked Rhodrigo to the retreating form, but Cassius didn't stop to answer.


O'Flanegans has such great views because of it's location on the opposite side of a crater to the space port, less than half a mile away as the rocket flies. Unfortunately that meant 2 miles of twisting corridors through the interior of Predas, a fifteen minute journey even at a flat run. Cassius's feet pounded the dull grey floors beating out the seconds until impact as the warning sirens started to wail. He was too young to help last time, stuck at home listening to updates on the feed, wondering if he would know any of the dead. That day had an impact on all Predosions, some lost close relatives or friends, others lost homes and businesses, some were seriously injured and carried the scars to this day. Cassius was for the first time confronted with the arbitrary and fickle nature of the universe and the revelation threw him into a deep depression that took him years to recover from.
Not this time. This time I will be there. This time I will help” he gasped between breaths.


The impact came on step 137, far to soon for the warnings to be much use, the floor bucked beneath him, sending Cassius flying into a display board. Dragging himself to his feet he took in the sign. It was for a holo that had come out two decades ago. 'The Ulysses Coming this December' Read the tag-line 'An A.I.'s odyssey into the unknown'. Cassius looked again 'Coming this December' but it never came, not to Predas anyway, the appetite for space operas died immediately after the crash.
"Why would they be showing this now? Wait, there isn't a theatre here, it closed twelve years ago. But it would have been here then, the first time this was out...” the words tumbled out of Cassius' mouth as it all became clear to him. ”I'm there, here, now! This isn't another crash! It's that one! I can help this time!”
Turing his back on the display he sprinted into the dim corridor, his way lit by the glaring, red, emergency lights.


His heart beating with a mix of exhaustion and apprehension Cassius approached the site of the crash. He hadn't seen anyone since O'Flanegans, though he had occasionally heard screams of terror from crossing hallways. Rounding a corner he came to the last stretch the end of this corridor was littered with twisted metal and rock, between him and that a pair of young men stumbled out of a adjoining corridor. Their ripped clothing and blood covered faces telling the tale of survival.
"Run!” one shouted ”It's coming!”
Emerging after them was a figure in a light space suit, insignia on it's shoulder marking him or her as crew of the mining platform. Covering ground a lot quicker than the others it quickly caught up with them, then barrelled them to the ground. Despite their attempts to fight back the men were overwhelmed quickly and it became apparent that Cass would have to intervene.
"Hey! Get off them!” Cassius shouted picking up a nearby rock and hurling it over his head towards the melee. It flew through the air and struck the attacker clear in the face, shattering the visor. Pausing in its pummelling the figure looked up. Cassius was met with a nightmarish visage, inside the helmet was a skull, brilliant white and gleaming the the dim light. Long, lank raven hair somehow held on and lifeless sockets stared straight at him, dripping some dark fluid. Covering the skull were small green tendrils emanating from further within the suit. These obviously acted as some kind of musculature as the being opened its jaws and let out a soundness scream. Raising to its feet the thing charged. Cassius spun and ran, terrified.


Hurtling down corridor after corridor, taking turns at random, darting through rooms, Cassius did his best to loose the creature, but it kept coming, gaining ground little by little. Eventually, ready to give up he turned a corner and spotted another crew member.
"Please...Help...” He panted.
The person turned, revealing a missing arm, the hole in the suit dripping the same dark liquid. It advanced towards him. At the same time his pursuer appeared once again behind him. With no escape Cassius sank to the floor, defeated. He closed his eyes and waited for the inevitable.
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