.vier.

It was cold. He felt a cool breeze touching his skin. Where was he? Was it the Antarctic? The dead moon? He didn´t knew. He felt the air pressure sinking. Where on earth could he be? Or wasn´t it earth at all?! Then he slowly and carefully opened his eyes. What he saw surprised him. Clinically white walls, a sterile room, functional furnished. And as he looked through the window his jaw fell down. He looked into deep space.
Now he started to remember, memorial shreds came up. He was on a space station. Not some space station, like those in the orbits of Venus or Uranus, full of decadent, hedonistic scum, whores and bookmakers. No; it was the space station. The flagship of all creatures from the solar system. The only space station outside the Milky Way. The Nemesis was a gigantic space station with a population of 2 billion creatures.
Suddenly an image of an antelope came up his mind, she looked familiar, but he could not explain why, no matter how hard he tried. And who was he himself? In his mind´s eye he saw a big III and a ψ. Now he knew: He was the first officer of the third sector, section psi. Abruptly a name came up; it had to be his own: Ptah Saunders.
But why was it so cold? Again he felt the lowering air pressure. All of a sudden it came to his mind, like a dagger rammed deep into the heart: There was a leak! And the room where he was was on the outer wall, so the wall of this room was the wall separating 2 billions of life from the deadly space.
However, it wasn´t possible. Since roundabout 270 years all space stations of the WPO had self-repairing walls. So there couldn´t be a leak. It was plainly impossible. But as he went around the cor-ner he saw the impossible: A tiny hole, not bigger than a Rhino´s hand. Instantly he put the mask on, in a routine he had never imagined, because it never had been necessary. He looked at the instru-ments. The air pressure and the oxygen concentration were on a lethal level. It was a miracle that he was still alive. But he didn´t think about that, he only thought about his wife and his two boys. He saw her pretty face, now he remembered her, her long antelopian nose, it was quite normal these days, that humanoids married other mammals; he remembered, how happy they were at their wed-ding, he imagined her dying. The brutal death in the lone outer space. His hands trembled, he tried to think, he had to think. That was something the artificial intelligence was responsible for, not a purely organic creature like him. But as the facts were, this intelligence had failed; otherwise the leak would have been recognized and repaired within nanoseconds. So now it was his goddamn duty to close this hole.
But how? He took a plate and tried to fix it at the leak. The suction pressed the carbon plate against the wall. This had to work for the first minutes until he had called for support. Now he noticed that he had no communicator; that was strange. So he had to walk to the next public communication device. Slowly he went to the door step by step, still panicking about the impossible and fearing to hear a rattling sound followed by a hissing. But there was no such sound. He went on, reached out his hand, covered with the black glove of WPO officers. The display showed an uncompromising LOCKED and a bit smaller the words emergency shutdown, all embedded in the least reassuring red one could imagine.
He tried to open the door manually. First with some force, then increasingly. His panic came back again. The adrenaline flooded his whole body.
Anything was silent, and then a tock and another, and more and more. It sounded like a horse racing. He heard voices, angry and aroused voices. He knew some of them, some where his superiors, some his colleagues and others his subordinates. There must have been some signal of the damage, some sign in the control room, so they sent an emergency team down here. His panic went away, his pulse slowed down, he was relieved.
The door opened with a short and sharp hiss. There were about 20 of them, all of them carried heavy guns, why that? , and were in armor, was there a threat he had overlooked?
One of them, it was Allessandro, a big humanoid guy, shouted “Freeze!!!”, others yelled “Put your fucking hands up!!!”; Did he hear correctly? It had to be the mask, you never saw someone with those masks.
The moment he put off the mask, he saw the look in Sarah´s face, she was a cowish looking young girl, working as a police guard. The look was full of horror, true honest horror, as if she met death or even worse. Others clamored in panic. He didn’t understand. What was wrong with his face? Was he maybe injured or disfigured? Allessandro screamed now: “Put your suit down!!” He was unable to think, so he did as he had ordered.
What he saw didn´t surprise him, not because he had expected it, not at all, but because he felt para-lyzed, as if he couldn´t feel anymore. He saw silver flesh; it seemed on some parts of his body like glass, on others like silk, and on his extremities scaly like a reptile’s skin.
The others were even more shocked, so they shouted to compensate their shock. Ptah tried to say “It´s me, everything is ok, the leak is closed.” but all what was coming out of his mouth was some snarling, clicking sounds and screeching overtones, like chalk on an ancient blackboard.
What was happening? He couldn´t explain. He looked around the room, in the terrified faces and sheer panic of his comrades; in the rear left corner he spotted a tarp and a pair of legs reaching out of it. All of a sudden he turned there, ran there, filled with a suspicion, so impossible you couldn´t even think about. But maybe today was the day of impossibilities. He ignored the shouts and screams of his colleagues. He heard one or two shots of the guns. He felt them touching him, but not pene-trating his body, he didn’t wonder. His entire mind was concentrated on this pair of legs. He threw away the tarp and saw a body, a naked body.
It was as if he was looking in the mirror, but the reflection didn´t move, the mirror image just lay there with severe wounds, not moving.
He saw his own dead body lying in front of himself.

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