Inser strolled through the gray metallic vaults of the Complex and completed his regular security sweep, passing a word here and there to the research staff spread throughout the underground chamber. A hello to one, a polite query as to health of another. It wasn’t much, but he’d always felt a little friendliness went a long way in maintaining good working relationships.
As was often the case he felt a little estranged from those around him. He was in charge of security after all and being the local ‘cop’ always built walls, no matter how hard he tried. All the training modules on managing interaction said the same thing: be patient, be fair, socialize.
The Complex wasn’t the ideal environment and another assignment would have been easier. Other posts had the possibility of leave, or the prospect of visits from family, friends or even lovers. But not here.
It was Inser’s job to watch over the Complex. The distance from Earth made that seem somewhat pointless and he always suspected the motive was more political – the bureaucratic mind just couldn’t imagine a project costing billions without some form of security. More crucially he watched those working in the Complex for any signs of misconduct. Potential danger was far more likely to come from someone there officially, someone who had slipped through the screening process. So he watched them. Scrutinized them.
The researchers knew the situation – that he looked on them as a potential source of danger – and that too made Inser’s position harder. How could it not?
Inser finished the sweep and headed for the refectory. As usual he sought company, hoping to ease the feelings of isolation. He saw Fay Komada at one of the tables and wasn’t surprised to find her there, in fact it was the main reason he frequented the place. She was a pleasant, dark haired girl, always quick to smile and with an intimate manner he found comforting. He’d often wondered why she would choose voluntary exile, but it wasn’t a subject that any of them ever discussed. Was it some kind of personality defect that made them so absorbed in their work that they condemned themselves to exile at the edge of the solar system?
“I just finished my patrol. It’s been a quiet night, but when is anything other than quiet here?” Inser’s voice was deep and surprisingly gentle. “Mind if I join you?”
Inser slid into a chair directly facing Fay. “How is everything with you? Things pretty much the same I guess?” His hands twisted together. “I was wondering if you would like to do something later on?
Silence enveloped Inser as though the atmosphere had compressed unimaginably around him. His head pitched forward, shoulders hunching as his body seemed to deflate.
“Of course every thing’s the same. How could it not be?” He looked up at the girl’s desiccated features, flesh shriveled around sightless eyes that stared into infinity. He let out a strangled animal cry of anguish and his hands cupped his face, closing out Fay and the others around him. Everyone in the refectory, everyone in the Complex, was dead.
What readers say:
“A fantastic short story, full of amazingly interesting characters. Loved it.” – S.K.
“I love it. Great ending!” – M.K.L.
“A very well written mysterious futuristic sci-fi book. It was very easy for me to read/follow from start/finish & never a dull moment. A very easy rating of 5 stars.” – T.P.
“Enjoyed it very much. Did not see the ending coming at all. Reminded me of the classic scifi I read many moons ago.” – D.C.