But I took a break to clear my head and meet the flash fiction challenge of the week from terrible minds.
I borrowed the character Karen Boyd from the Scary Hippopotamus for the terrible minds flash fiction challenge of the week. Karen sounds awesome (go read!) and I’m not sure I did her justice, but I hope you enjoy her.
I have 18 minutes.
I hope I have 18 minutes. I slip into the chair of the station manager and grin. Ellis never locks his desk, getting in within the first five minutes means it won’t demand identification. I set my taser on the desk, pointed at the door. I’d spent weeks making sure that not only did I know every single person on ship, but I have an idea of who might come in, who I will need to shoot, who I will need to sweet talk, who I might be able to share the truth with.
I’m not completely sure what I’m looking for today. This might be the first of many trips to dig through files and see what answers I can find. I start to go through the files, schedules, process documents, a glossary for all the acronyms we use. I didn’t think I’d find a manifesto detailing all the lies they’d told, the way they’d built people, the purpose of the mission, but it would have been nice if it was there.
I select the search function and look through the recent searches. Schedules. Everything around here is always about the schedule so I don’t know how I could be surprised that it was all about schedules.
Personnel files, they must be in here somewhere. I dig deeper, trying to make sure I’m not doing anything that can be noticed later as out of place. I’d really just like to type my own name into the search function, but that would be the fastest way to give me away.
A sharp rap on the door pulls my attention up. My hand goes to my taser, I’m going to have to use it, go with Plan B.
“I believe I am to report here for orders.” I didn’t recognize the man at the door. I know everyone on this damn ship. We are on a space ship. In space. I know everyone on the ship, that is in space. This isn’t possible. He doesn’t recognize me.
“Ma’am,” The man speaks again. “They told me that I was to report here for orders. I just got out of cry and I don’t remember much ma’am so I’d appreciate if you could tell me…who you are, what I’m doing here…just about anything.”
I think back to when I came out on the ship. When I was printed and built. They told me I was woken out of cryo. They told me to report to the station manager.
“Yes, come in and have a seat.” I sit up a little straighter.
15 minutes left.
I wave at the seat. “It is a little disorienting isn’t it?” I give a friendly smile.
“Yes ma’am it is.” He sits down looking greatly relieved. He nods. “I can’t remember much of anything. What am I doing here? This is a space ship right?” He leans forward at the last looking around a bit confused.
I laugh. It isn’t the most official thing to do, but I can’t help myself. “Yes, we are on a space ship. You’ll have a full briefing packet in your room.” I don’t know if I should tell him the truth, as much of it as I know, make an ally.
“Thank you so much ma’am.”
“Karen Boyd. Do you know what your name is?” Someone will know I’ve been here so I might as well go all in. I turn to the computer and type my name into the search field.
“No ma’am.” His confusion is thick. “I mean Karen. I mean Ms Boyd. I mean …” He pauses and looks at me, he’s sorting through his thoughts. I start moving files to the drive I’d managed to secure. Anything with my name on it, lots of schedules, but some things that look promising. I’m not even bothering to open them.
12 minutes left.
“I’m not sure what I mean ma’am. Ma’am sort of seems like the thing seems the most natural.” The man frowns. He examines his hands. I move more files.
In my haste I open one of my files. I nod at him absently. A thought suddenly occurs to me. We only have resources on the ship for an exact number of people I know every person on this ship. Except the man in front of me. How are we going to feed one more person? How are we going to house one more person? We need oxygen and greens.
I try to hide my confusion. The file is a schedule. I go to close it and then glance at the names. I scan the list for my name. It’s on there. I feel a tiny bit of relief. I start to read the rest of the names, looking for one that is missing.
“Ma’am?” The man across from me catches my attention again. He is watching me, like I’m the one with authority. He thinks I’m the one in charge I remind myself. A name I don’t recognize on the sheet jumps out.
“Reginald.” I smile at him. I don’t know who is missing, but this must be the man in front of me. Who is Reginald?
8 minutes left.
“That doesn’t sound like my name.” He frowns. He repeats it to himself quietly. I keep looking for the missing name, but there are a couple hundred people on the station. Not so many I can’t know them all, but apparently enough that I can’t find the missing name in a matter of minutes. “Is there anything else you can tell me about why we are on a ship in space, we are in space right?”
“Yes, we are in space.” I know this story, I’ve heard it a hundred times before. “We are on a colonization mission. We had one final transmission from Earth, where we came from,” I can’t remember if this was something I knew or something I’d learned, “but it was a mess. We don’t know what it was. We have to assume we are the last of humanity.”
I wait for the surprise. It doesn’t come. He nods, like this is something he knows already. Maybe he is the person I need to talk to. “That seems familiar. Is that supposed to be familiar? I feel like maybe I know about communications? Is that possible?” He looks to me for the answers.
3 minutes left. I need to leave now.
I stand. He stands. I grab the drive from the computer. They are going to know I was here. Eventually. I’m going to try to make sense of everything I can first.
“Let me show you where you can get something to eat, we can have a brief chat.” I wave him toward the door and he steps out.
There is probably a ticking clock now. I need to learn more about the files, about what this man knows, and I need to do it before someone figures out what I’m doing.