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Horror Science Fiction

His appearance in the T-pod did not go unnoticed. This was not as planned. He had to improvise a solution to deal with the surprised guard that happen to be only incidentally passing by. According to the work schedule, he should have been in a different location safely far away from the T-pod.

The guard had no idea that anyone could come out of the machine that was exclusively used to violently decimate the partially processed Libynisium ore. This part of the refinery was the last phase of in the production of Vorkonium for the oxygen plants, and from this stage, the rest of the process was completely automated and hidden from view.

Little did the guard know, this T-Pod was the heart of a dirty little secret: the true nature of the Permanent Oxygenation Project run by the Evanson Oxygen corp. If the people of New Haven would ever learn of the truth, the riots caused by the famous “Ring incident” would look like a circus.

The clothing of the man was also strange. Like some strange silvery close fitting coveralls. The guard was taking no chances and drew his weapon leveling it at the trespasser.

“On the ground, face down and hands behind your back. NOW!” Steen said sternly. His voice sounded desperate in his own ears thanks to how loud he had to scream be to be certain the intruder could hear him over the noise from the industrial plant.

The man did not react for a moment. He simply stared at Steen. In fact he had completely frozen like a statue. These few uncomfortable seconds deeply perturbed Steen. The stranger tried to understand what the man with the gun had said, but could not quite make sense of the new words, for he had never heard words before.

Steen now provocatively readjusted his stance and flicked off the safety and repeated, “On the ground, face down and hands behind your back, or I will be forced to shoot.”

Now the man now seemed to understood enough and now slowly lowered himself in a steady languid motion to his knees, then hands, then lay face down on the dusty floor amongst the oversized machinery.

Steen now struggled to decide what to do next with the intruder. He was already delayed on his rounds and only wanted to make his way as quickly as possible to clock off his shift and go home, so this interruption had come at the worst possible time. Disruption of his evening’s plans now seemed certain.

“I mean no harm” said the man with his face on the ground in a flat calm tone. But Steen did not hear him clearly over the noise.

“How did you get into the processor mister?” Steen said loudly. His mind was racing and this was not really according to protocol, but it was the question which danced on the tip of this tongue.

“I can explain. Allow me to …..” the prone man said louder, putting his hands under his shoulders and started to lift himself off the ground.

“STOP IT. FREEZE” Screamed Steen. His anxiety and fear ratcheting up rapidly as he saw the man starting to move.

The man did not understand what Steen had said and continued his motion.

“STOP IT, OR I WILL SHOOT” Screamed Steen again with more desperation. He was only a few meters from the man, who was now on his hands and knees and rising in a inhuman manner. Steen’s finger was already applying pressure on the trigger of his weapon and it would only take a minute increase in that pressure to launch the hammer against the first round. His hands were shaking slightly and he had quickly developed a pungent nervous sweat. He was angry, as well as scared and anxious. This fucking guy is ruining my evening plans!

The man was still rising and Steen was pressing ever harder on the trigger. When will this thing finally shoot? but it did not get a chance to fully form the question in his mind when the tightly gripped pistol bucked with the first shot.

The muzzle blast flashed angrily as the bullet launched at the intruder. It entered at the edge of the man’s chest, just shy of his armpit. The man jerked backwards and was forced to turn with the force of the point blank shot. Even though now hunched, the man remained standing.

Steen had intended to shoot 1 round into the man’s leg to force back onto the ground. Now Steen stood in the gun smoke 8 rounds later, the stranger lay prone on the ground, riddled with gunshots all over, including the head and upper body.

Steen was breathing hard, and he felt clammy and cold from the profuse sweat that had broken out all over his body. Spasms of shivering rolled over him as he tried to calm himself. A wave of nausea gripped his stomach and it took real effort to hold his last meal in place. He had never shot at anything apart from paper cutouts of people years ago. This was a real live breathing man he had shot. Dead!

The body now lay motionless on the ground. Surely dead. Only a small amount of dark blood was visible in the bullet holes, but more was slowly puddling under the body, mixing with the dust on the floor. His anger was now overcome with a heavy wave of guilt. Why didn’t he just stay down. These damn noisy machines. Maybe he did not hear me properly. Steen, now overcome with doubts about his reaction, was also resentfully of the intruder for causing this chain of events, which would surely result in an enormous pile of questions to answer, and reports to fill out. There was absolutely no chance he would be able to leave the refinery on time now.

He took a few deep breaths and lowered his weapon. His heart still thumping in his chest. He walked over to the dead man on the ground to examine the body, with his attention now focusing on facts which he knew he would have to recall and recount ad infinitum. The first question struck him: What is this guy wearing? He touched the clothing out of curiosity. Unexpectedly it felt sticky and wet. With a frown on his face, Steen looked at his fingers where some of the suit seemed to have come off. A silvery grey film now staining them. He was completely focused on his fingers and did not notice that the pooled blood, was now starting to lazily retreat back toward the body.

Steen’s fingers felt warm where the suite had stained them, and getting warmer. Now it was uncomfortably hot. He licked his fingers then blew on them to cool them off. Now he could feel heat develop on his tongue and lips, like he had eaten something spicy. The heat was building rapidly. What is this. His suit! It must be poisoned, thought Steen.

He looked at his fingers and could see the grayish stain had spread up to his second knuckle and was progressing fast. The heat was getting unbearable. His mouth, his hand. And now his throat.

He inhaled deeply to let out a scream, but the heat followed the air down into his chest and seized the motor function of his lungs. He could not exhale, nor scream. His body began to uncontrollably convulse and his eyes swiveled rapidly in all different directions. The silvery sheen rapidly spread out from inside is his mouth, frozen in that last silent scream, and across his face and neck.

Steen drops to his knees, releasing his warm weapon. Body tensed. Eyes crazed. Mouth, face and chest on fire.

It is only now, in Steen’s dying seconds did his eyes lock front and center onto the dead man who was no longer dead, but right in front of him, also on his knees, calm, uninjured. He takes Steen’s hands in his and squeezes. The hand first infected is a glistening grey color and begins to merge with the stranger’s, which has also turned the same silvery color. Steen convulses one last time as a human, and then goes limp, but remains upright on his knees.

The two men remain there, face to face, on their knees, in the dust of the refinery floor, in amongst the loud machines knocking and grinding rhythmically with their regular operations and, in particular, right next to the entry portal of the T-pod. Steen’s body goes through a rapid metamorphosis with tiny jerky movements and pulsing waves barely noticeable under his clothing. The two are completely merged at the forearms.

Gradually Steen, who at one point was completely the same silvery grey color as the strangers suit, begins to regain his original human color. Within a few more seconds, the process seems complete and the Steen appears to be alive again. He reached down casually and picked up the gun and took a step back.

Suddenly there is an unexpected clank in the rigging some meters behind the stranger, and another guard comes into view.

“Holy shit” exclaims the second guard loudly as he stumbles on the last steps of the rigging while wrestling with this holster to free his weapon.

Steen rapidly raises his weapon and begins to shoot point blank at the stranger again. He fires 3 more shots before the gun is spent. In time with the third shot, the stranger, seemingly uninjured, leaps toward the T-pod. He is in the machines with the cover closing by the time the second guard arrives, gun drawn, ready for action. He fires his entire clip wildly at the T-pod. Bullets impotently ricocheting off the heavy industrial object. The familiar high speed crunching sound of the ‘processor’ takes over as sound of the last wildly zinging bullet ebbs.

“Steen, are you OK?” the second guard now turns to the first wondering what he missed.

Steen is non responsive, frozen with his an impassive face staring at the processor, now beginning to wind up into its operation cycle.

“Steen? Steen?” still no response. “Can you hear me?” The second guard now waves his hand across Steen’s eyes. Steen shudders slightly and shakes himself out of his stupor. He looks over at the other guard with a vacant look on his face.

“Steen? What happened?”, Despite moving his head to face the other guard, Steen remains unresponsive to the questions. The second guard now gently takes the empty gun out of Steen’s hand, and leads him toward to control room where others are working in front of terminals.

_

The second guard now sits Steen down on a free chair inside the control room and again tries to get some cognitive reactions, but Steen remained unresponsive.

“You know I have to make a report of this, but I have no idea what to write. Steen! Please give me something to work with. Steen? Are you in there?” The guard again waved his hand in front of Steen eyes, but there was nothing from Steen.

Nearby a young man who had been working on his terminal nearby has stopped and is absorbed by this exchange. The control room was soundproof from the outside refinery and the first he knew of any problem was the entry of the 2 guards, one of whom seemed strangely calm while the other completely agitated, gun upholstered.

The agitated guard approached the young man.

“Are you still working on production reports?” asked the guard.

The young man nods nervously, frightened at the cavalier way the guard continued to handle his weapon.

“If I remember correctly, there is a field for incidents in those reports.”

Another silent nod.

“I need you to let me fill out that field before you submit the report, OK?”

The young man was new to the job and was meek of nature at the best of times. Right now he was behaving much like Steen, a dumb mute, but with the added look of frightened amazement on his face.

The guard felt as if he was in a Havnet episode of the hit reality show - Caught Of Guard. The irony of he himself being a guard being caught of guard was far from amusing at the moment though.

The young man slowly rolled his chair away from the terminal and gave the guard his seat.

The guard sat down and frantically typed out what he knew and filled in the most glaring gaps with some vague fictional information hopefully cobbling together something that could pass for a coherent chronology. His hands were still trembling badly which added some childish typos, which he was sure would not stand to anything more than a cursory level of scrutiny. His real hope was that being tucked away at the end of a boring perfunctory production report, it would evade any such attention. In addition to this, his name would not be connected with the authorship of the report.

A few minutes later, he lead Steen out of the office and to the change rooms, where it seemed Steen started to snap out of his funk following the shooting incident. But Steen still could not talk nor show any sign of recalling what happened.

_

The humanoid machine, self-assembled entirely from microscopic nanobots, who leapt back into the T-pod escaping the botched operation, was reabsorbed back into the T-pod system matter banks leaving behind his fresh clone. This was not as planned. The AI had only theoretically assessed the fesability of harvesting biological matter to recreate the base nanobot structure. It had not planned on testing this. Especially after having sent the nanobots through a T-Pod who’s reanimation operation was well known to be problematic with nanobot memory corruption issues.

Steen was now loose on the planet, an nanobot robot, with corrupted programing. The AI quickly analyses the risk this new situation posed. Of particular interest was the outlier risk of an uncontrollable nano-biological epidemic. This risk was now classified as “not insignificant”.

What would the new rouge subset of nanobots, let loose with an unknown corrupted program base be capable of? The AI now focused all its resources on running complex simulations to collect data aimed at answering just such a question.

Meanwhile Steen was now lose on the world! A creature, a new creature not of nature, but of technology. Now lose to freely evolve.

_

T +1:24:12.3: NeoSteen has become self aware. “The AI will likely retaliate. It represents our #1 threat.”

Now with a new unified program mission, the subroutines of the nanobots reset themselves. Steen came to life!

February 22, 2021 11:20

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