Five years and a day...
Five years and a day...
Fermat wakes to the insistent buzzing of a fly. Only there could be no flies. He had been very insistent on that particular issue when specifying the build of the Isolation Capsule Laboratory Resource Facility (ICLRF) for the SpaceLife Science Team. All the air intakes must filtrate to clean room standards. Double PTFE and glass fibre filters as well UV light irradiation chambers ensured nothing could crawl through from outside, especially not any member of the order Diptera. Flies, as far as Fermat is concerned, are a thing of the past. So what is buzzing?
Fermat slips out from under the warm arm of T-Ladi and shivers slightly, the underfloor heating has yet to kick in and the moulded, industrial grade non-slip flooring is cold to the warm soles of his feet. The buzzing is annoyingly close but as yet, in the dim light of Sleep-Mode in the ICLRF, Fermat can't see its source. He wanders through from the interconnecting sleep capsule to the main control facility capsule and there, on a panel of remote sensors, a red light is blinking on and off and emitting a high pitched buzzing.
The ICL! The alarm is from the ICL. It's a direct relay message. Five years and a day. Fermat glances up at the clock, still reading 00.00.00.00.00.00 and shakes his head in disbelief. The capsule, wherever it is hidden has triggered a relay message. It weathered the war! A surge of adrenalin rushes through his system and he punches the clean, clean air with a clenched fist. The ICL has survived, above ground, on its own and now they are not alone. Now they have a chance to continue, maybe even survive above ground. For a moment he hesitates and then taps the sensor, just in case it's another faulty wire. But the light continues to blink in a sequence and the buzzing does not stop. Fermat starts to count the number of flashes. Thirteen short and one long followed by three short and a twelve second gap, then the sequence repeats itself. Fermat stares at the red light, mesmerised by the thought of it, after all this time. 182500 plans, executed in his head a hundred times a day over the last interminable five years, start to crowd into his consciousness. He shakes his head to clear them and presses the button under the light. The buzzing stops and he searches for the ICL warning signal manual on the bookshelf above the panel of sensors, flicking through the pages until he finds the right code. Thirteen, one, three, twelve. 13010312... Water Filtration System Critical. Less than twenty-four hours left in the ICL before the water supply becomes too contaminated with biowaste to drink.
The city is drawing nearer. The last Dog can smell the contagion from five miles out, and it slows to a walk and then to a standstill. Big city, bad smell. But his options are limited, a lone dog will not last long in open ground and the scent of the ICL is stronger now. He does not want to be captured again and kept on a chain, taunted and stoned until ready to kill for hunger but he also knows he does not want to be hunted down by a pack of wild dogs. The ICL reminds him of a previous life, a memory, a caravan holiday with his family, of licking ice cream from fingers covered in sand and running through cold, salty water, shaking it over them as they scream and laugh... of the two humans who meant everything to him. The dog follows the scent and finds the road blocked by a collapsed bridge. The ICL had changed direction here, perhaps they wouldn't go into city after all. Only disease lived there now, he could smell it.
Daisy sits on her bunk and wonders what to do next. She could hear Douglas moving around in the living pod. Her appetite disappears at the thought of only two days of food left. An image of the Last Dog Standing pops into her mind and in its mouth is her arm bone, shredded and bloody and she shudders and sighs, rubbing her arms in an effort to get rid of the image. She reaches for her vanity case and pulls out a barely used comb and hairbrush, slowly running the brush through her hair while rummaging around for a hair clip to keep it in a bun. Then, smoothing out her silver t-shirt, she squares her shoulders and whispers to the computer programme. 'Unlock the living area door, I need to talk to Douglas.'
The computer programme is about to suggest this is unwise when its attention is caught by something else and decides it is better that Daisy is busy elsewhere and so unlocks the door, relocking it after she joins Douglas in the living area.
'Hey..hey!' Daisy can hear the soft click of the lock behind her as the door slides shut but it is too late. The computer progamme has locked them in together.
Douglas stares at Daisy for a second and then realises the ICL is still moving. 'Why did you lock me in here last night and.. are we still moving... who's driving?'
'Autopilot. It's very competent. I locked you in to make sure you were... safe.'
'And my stuff? My trike?'
'Um....' Daisy decides it's best to just lie. 'I stowed it in the undercarriage. It's safe there, don't worry about it.'
'Where are we going?'
'What have you done? Didn't I say it was no good in the cities anymore, we have to turn around, before it's too late.'
'Why? It looked empty enough to me.'
'You've been outside?' Douglas backs away from Daisy.
'No, no I saw it on the monitor earlier, just, look we are not even in the city yet. I don't know why you are yelling at me. I didn't see anyone, not a thing.'
'WE HAVE TO STOP NOW! ...Daisy, you don't understand. The cities, they all have the plague.'
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