Karl peered through the doorway, checked no-one was home and set him self down to rest. It had been a long day. Seven of the main interfaces had crashed and panic ensued all around him. The work had started at seven that morning and he had worked through with hardly any breaks. Ten o'clock. What day was it? Friday? He hoped so he needed a break. That was the third time this week the interface had crashed. Bobby would have told him all his sabotage conspiracy theories. It wouldn't be the first time. Only two months ago some unknown individual or group managed to kill half the plant seedlings. As if the rations weren't bad enough. In fact in the ten years the station had been fully operational they had had no less than twenty-two instances of sabotage or mass riot, but who was keeping count?
For now Karl was just glad that he could rest, and if it was Friday (which he was pretty sure by now it was), he could rest all day tomorrow as well. As he lay there almost asleep his thoughts wavered and then, suddenly, were brought back together. Karl sat up instantly and started over toward his desk. His visual screen was making a deafening noise and was blinking red and white. He spun it around and switched off the alarm. The screen automatically lit up and the Sci-Tech logo showed on screen. The screen was still flashing red and the words "URGENT!!" were also flashing at a startling rate. Karl rubbed his eyes, and tried to focus on the light and sound display now covering his room. As he switched the unit on a message came up on screen, "Warning data lost. Unable to secure visual". Karl tapped a few more keys and the message played back. The message was almost totally unrecognisable, it was his father, and he was in trouble.
"Come on Charlie we have to keep up the pace".
"Give me a break Donavon" came the reply "I'm absolutely knackered!"
"We must move further away from the caves." Donavon shouted back "Toward Genesis"
"Come off it man, we don't even know it exists!"
"It exists alright, I've seen the plans!" They had come to a stand still now and Charlie was staring up into space.
"What is it Charlie??" No reply.
"What??" Charlie had turned white, he started to edge back towards the caves and pointed to the sky,
"SOLAR FLARE! RUN!"
The two men ran for the caves, somehow Donavon got there first. He turned around to see where Charlie was, but it was too late. He must have tripped, Donavon thought to himself. Poor fool. The flare had passed and the moon was once again a dark empty wasteland. All that remained of Charlie was his helmet. I must move quicker, he thought to himself. Get to the other station before it's too late.
As he sat waiting for their decision Karl grew ever more nervous. He had asked the council of governors of Sci-Tech for emergency permission to travel to Earth. The council had now made their decision and Karl dreaded the worst. At the council table the head chair got up to speak:
"I'm sorry Karl but the council must decline your request to travel to Earth!"
Karl froze unable to say anything, only one pathetic whisper got out
The head chair reached for a control and pointed it at the twelve foot vid-screen on the wall.
"As of six am this morning Earth is under mandatory quarantine, no ships are permitted to enter or leave Earth's atmosphere until further notice."
The voice spoke as scenes of mass panic and hysteria played on the screen. Another member of the council, this one seemingly older than the chair, probably next in line Karl decided, concluded the meeting.
"That's it Mr. James no further information is available at this time."
As Karl was once again led away by guards he swore he could see a look of sorrow on the old mans face. The chairman of the council had known his father for many years, and he too had family and loved ones on Earth. He turned away as the doors slammed shut.
Nothing!! Nothing at all! Karl had been scanning news stations and the net alike, but could find no reasons behind the quarantine on Earth. What little of his fathers message that had survived the transmission did not make much sense.
Karl…must help me… plague…dieing…
Karl had not seen his father for years. He had seen very little of him over the last two years they had lived together on Earth, a month here, a week there; his father was working on a top secret project, that was why his mother had left him years before. After he moved up here, to RE-BIRTH, almost six years ago he had not received much more than a birthday card from his father. He had always been too busy with his research, although he would never tell Karl what exactly it was.
As he continued to search through the news archives he suddenly found something he had almost forgotten about. A month a go a group claiming Sci-Tech was planning some kind of war on Earth, destroyed a whole section of the harbour. They had escaped in the confusion and where presumed dead, the leader was called Donavon Keats. He also found something else very interesting… another station on the other side of the moon, linked by underground passageways. Code name: Genesis.
The tunnel was dark and damp, and reeked of everything that RE-BIRTH was not. There were sewage outlets along the west wall, and strange creatures scurried about between his feet. The cable car had stopped at a steep ramp, at the top of which was a huge steel door. It took him almost half an hour to work through all the passageways until he reached the main entrance. It was a jar. Someone was here.
"Anybody there?" Karl asked rather sheepishly.
He then repeated with slightly more confidence
"I'm a friend, is anybody in here?" A door creaked open to reveal a mans face, hardly recognisable in the dark:
"Who are you, who's with you?"
"No one, I'm here alone." Karl replied
"I don't believe you, always come in groups."
"I'm not here to fight, I'm looking for help"
"Come to take me back have they, finish off the job?"
By now Karl was getting tired of this conversation, "I know what happened, I know about Donovan…" as he tried to speak he was interrupted as the man stuck a blaster to Karl's temple.
"Where'd you here that name? Who sent you?" Karl had obviously struck a nerve.
"I read the reports; I need help getting to Earth."
At this the man retracted the gun and slammed the door shut, there was some movement before the door opened fully. Standing in the doorway was a tall man at least 6 foot, long blonde hair, dirtied with oil and dirt, dressed in overalls, and holding a blaster in one hand a wrench in the other. The man took Karl's arm behind his back and once again held the gun to his temple. He led Karl round to the main control room. Still holding the gun tight the man looked over the controls and vid-screens very closely. Then he let out a sigh and let go of Karl.
"It seems no-one else is here, I'll run a quick parameter scan just in case". Karl looked up in awe.
"How can you take charge of these controls, you don't have the clearance" Karl demanded.
The man worked on not looking up "Donovan I presume. I'm Karl"
"That is correct" came the reply "Been doing a little research hey?"
"I told you I need to get to Earth!" Karl repeated eagerly.
Donovan stared at Karl thoughtfully, a look of sympathy in his eyes.
"Don't they do regular shuttle runs to Earth anymore?" He asked sardonically
"I take it you don't get the news here then" was the reply "Earth's been quarantined until further notice." There was a deep look of shock and concern on Donovan's face, but as if he had been expecting this.
Donovan kept on working away, moving from computer to a desk where he had some sort of blue prints.
"Look Mr. Keats I need to get to Earth, my father's in trouble"
"What are you talking about?"
"I don't know he mentioned a plague in his message, and now Earth's quarantined."
"That's unfortunate, especially since I need to get off this piece of rock."
"Then take me with you" Karl demanded
"Why should I? Why don't I just leave you here with them. You can all suffer the same fate!"
"What ? What are you doing?"
Donovan turned to Karl like a discerning doctor about to break some horrific news, but with a wry smile on his face.
"In one hour both stations will shut down, all power, everything gone. I plan not to be here when that happens."
Karl looked in absolute horror at Donavon. "You can't do that there are innocent people on that station"
"Don't tell me about innocent people, not when I had to watch five of my best friends die out there; on the surface."
Karl eyed Donavon carefully, he did not want to upset the heavy built man with a gun in his hand but, "You weren't exactly innocent were you. You and your 'friends' destroyed part of the harbour, killing several engineers and bystanders."
"Bull shit!!" Karl had obviously touched a nerve- again.
"That explosion was caused due to faulty equipment. We were scapegoats. Sci-Tech set it up so they could get away with using second rate equipment, just to save money."
"If what you say is true why don't you just go down to Earth and tell the authorities the truth?"
"Fool Boy," he replied. "Sci-Tech own half the police and government. I'd never win."
There was a look of sadness on Donavon's face, which quickly turned to startled horror.
Suddenly alarms were sounding all over the station, and a voice came over the intercom.
"Donavon Keats, you are under arrest for sabotage, and the planned murder of thousands more!"
"Damn it-You led them here," he pointed his gun at Karl.
"No I swear, no-one followed me I was careful. Maybe they have cameras operational on this station." Karl added in desperation.
"Impossible!" Donavon started to tap away frantically but the systems refused to respond 'LOCK DOWN' was displayed on the screen. "Damn it" Donavon remarked "You're right. They set me up-again!"
At that he started over to a small shuttle, he flicked a switch to open the docking hatch but that too was off line. "Let me come with you!" Karl shouted, the guards were approaching fast.
"Too late!" Came the reply. "The hatch is locked and it's too strong to blast open.
"If I can open it for you can I come?"
"IF, yeah. But there's no way…"
Before he could finish the sentence Karl had started to tap away at the control panel. He managed to get to the system map and unlocked the hatch. It slowly started to open.
As the shuttle soared out of the hatch and to freedom, the guards looked on in disbelief. The leader switched on his radio. "Sorry sir they escaped, that Mr.James must have helped him. Over"
The reply crackled over the radio. "Never mind. I'll speak to our friends down on Earth, return to base soldier."
The shuttle was nothing like Karl had imagined. Since mankind only used space travel to transport goods or small groups of people to or from the moon, then only small, cramped shuttles were required. The tattered seats were nothing compared to the bed Karl was used to, and as the shuttle cruised toward Earth Karl could not help but wonder if he would be better off back at RE-BIRTH.
"So do you have a plan?" He asked Donavon?
"Yeah, getting the hell away from here would be a start."
He didn't get much time to contemplate this though as the alarm sounded and a familiar voice spoke up on the com system.
"Unidentified ship, you are entering a quarantined zone. Head back or we will open fire!!"
The message was on an automatic loop, and repeated while Donovan tried every form of jammer he knew of. Eventually the voice stopped. Karl was not entirely sure this was a good thing, his father often talked about the calm before the storm. The shuttle continued on its course, and as they reached Earth's atmosphere Donavon once again took control.
"What are you doing?" Karl asked.
"We have to get exactly the right angle entering Earths atmosphere or the entire ship would burn up." He replied
"Oh right. Need any help?"
"No I think I've….." Suddenly there was a terrific crash, and the entire ship shook. Seconds later a laser ripped a hole in one side of the ship, and blasted out the other side. As everything in the shuttle tried to throw itself out of the rip in the hull, Karl anxiously held on to his seat and Donovan frantically handled the controls to make sure they survived the next few seconds.
"Hang on kid!" Donavon screamed over the noise, "This is gonna get worse before it gets better!"
Great, Karl thought. As the shuttle broke through into Earths atmosphere it began flying out of control, twisting and turning as it headed continuously faster towards the Atlantic Ocean. Donovan quickly engaged emergency procedures, and the entire cock pit ejected leaving the shuttle to plunge to its doom.
No sooner had they seen the shuttle escape from their view then another blast shook their escape pod.
"What now? Are they firing again?" Karl gasped
Donavon looked out at they view in front of him "Not quite, they're pulling us in, some kind of tractor beam."
They both looked on helplessly as a huge transport station, right in the middle of the ocean, came ever closer.
The station was based on an old oil rig, now disused it had been turned into a quarantine control unit. Everyone on board wore complete quarantine suits and masks. Karl and Donovan where stripped down, blasted with acid, powered, then given their own suits. These were incredibly claustrophobic, and Karl had to inhale huge amounts of oxygen from the pump at any given time.
"Come on you two," one guard demanded.
Two guards then took them both and led them down a long hallway occupied by several more quarantined guards and scientists.
They could see several rooms once part of the oil rig now being used as laboratories. Groups of scientists were working with specimens of some kind. They didn't get much time for sight seeing, their captors signalled the way into an office, which was occupied by a small bald man behind a desk.
The man whose name was Chief Inspector Briggs gave a mocking smile as Karl and Donavon entered the room. "I thought we shot you outta the sky" he exclaimed. Donovan looked around suspiciously "You very nearly did!" he replied.
"Well Mr…um…Keats, you and your co pilot have entered a quarantined area, those jamming signals you tried only raised our suspicions to why you're here." He looked hard at them both.
"Why are you here sir?" At this point Karl sprung into action.
"We're here at my fathers request; he's a scientist, Dr. Emmanuel James."
Inspector Briggs turned looking suspicious; he studied his computer screen then shook his head as he looked up at Karl and Donovan.
"Ahh yes we have your father quarantined at our London base." He tapped his control panel again.
"Orders from RE-BIRTH are to send you there in the morning." He signalled to the guards who had brought them to the office, they pulled Karl and Donavon up by their suits then they led them back down the hallway.
It was a long cold night in the cell, and neither of them got much sleep. Karl was woken by the sun shining in through the crack in the grate. He looked over to Donavon who was still asleep. What had happened to his father? Why was he being held captive? And how did RE-BIRTH have control of a quarantine station in the middle of the ocean?
Guards soon came to bring rations of food, and Donavon soon stirred.
"Out of the toilet, and in to the sewer, eh?" were the first words he spoke.
"What does that mean?" Karl asked.
"It means we escaped RE-BIRTH guards trying to shoot us down only to be captured again."
"But how does RE-BIRTH control this station?"
"I told you kid, Sci-Tech owns half of Earth. They must have told 'em we were coming."
"They knew of my father too" Karl said half to himself. "It's my fault. I let them know when I requested to come to Earth."
"Don't beat yourself up kid. There's nothing you could have done."
Their conversation was brought to an end as the guards returned to lead them out to a landing platform, where a helicopter was waiting. The guards cuffed them, and indicated to step into the copter. As they came into land Karl saw how much London had changed. It was now a dark and gloomy place. A thick smog hung over the city, where the pitch black buildings, from years of pollution lured over the streets like razor sharp claws. Everywhere had a damp musty smell and the air was too thick to breathe. The guard handed them both small masks, just the right size to fit in your pocket.
"Put these on." They both did as they were told.
Karl could see down near the landing platform a black van with two heavy built men, also heavily armed standing beside it. Donavon looked down at the van.
"Nice knowing you kid," he remarked.
Karl could not think of anything else to say. They were guided off the helicopter and towards the van, keeping their masks on. The driver opened the door and they got in the back. They sat opposite each other, each with a guard sitting next to them.
"It's alright to put those masks down in here you two, fresh air is being pumped through" one of the guards exclaimed, noting how they clutched their masks as if their lives depended on it.
Donovan answered, "How do I know you're not intending to poison us?"
The guard pointed a blast rifle at Donavons face. "If we wanted you dead, I'd have done it by now." Donavon removed his mask.
"You too!" the guard now pointed the rifle at Karl. He co-operated with no remark.
As they rode along the streets of London Karl could see hoards of families forced to live on the streets, forced by the disease they now had. All of them had disfiguring boils on their face and body. The van drove on until they got to a huge, disused factory with a huge sign hanging above it, 'QUARANTINE!! NO ENTRY!!'
The van drove inside and then came to a stand still. The two guards escorted them through several locked doors until they came to a long corridor. Unlike the outside of the building everything inside was clean and white. The whole place smelled of chlorine, and men in complete white containment suits ran the hall way, escorting patients and medical equipment.
"What is this place?" Karl asked.
The guard looked at him in disgust.
"This is where we keep all the victims of the plague, to stop it spreading."
Karl looked puzzled, "But the people we saw on the streets.."
The guard stopped out side a white door marked patient X. "The plague as spread too far now, we only look after severe cases"
They were led into the room, where behind a glass screen sat a tired old man, completely covered in all sorts of boils. The guard faced Karl "You have five minutes"
Karl looked on in horror at his father sitting there in so much pain.
"What happened father?" The old man looked up at his son, hardly recognizing him through his blurry eyes.
"Karl is that you?? You got my message?"
"Yes father but what happened?"
"We did it son, we unleashed the plague."
"What do you mean? You've caught it I know."
"No son, you misunderstand! We were working for Sci-Tech. Have been all these years. That's how you got your job on RE-BIRTH. That's their new head quarters now Earth has become poisoned."
"Father I don't understand."
"We were working on bio-weapons to use in case of war. But something went wrong, we found the plague, and it got out." He started coughing up blood and doubling over.
Karl turned round "Somebody help him!"
The guard came back in. "It's too late now, nothing can help him."
Now it was Donavon's turn to be suspicious. "Then why do you keep him here?"
The guard turned back to Donavon. "He's patient X, the first to have contracted the disease. Only from him can we find a cure."
"Liar!" Karl looked over to see his father standing up, leaning against the glass.
"Karl, I sent you that message so you would find me, it's them Karl! They did this too me, and they have the cure!"
"He's delirious, ignore him." The guard stated as he led them out of the room.
"Karl, they did it! Sci-Tech! The wanted Earth for themselves so they unleashed a cure then sent all their governors to RE-BIRTH, ready to come back when we were all dead. You must remember Karl, you've been here before!"
No I haven't, he thought. His father really was delirious! The guards led Karl and Donavon away apparently unmoved by the claims. What was he talking about? Karl thought. Some of it made sense but then some of it….
"What he said…" Karl started.
"I told you he's delirious from the disease." The guard butted in.
"Where are you taking us?" Donavon demanded.
The guard looked at them both, "Re-programming!"
Karl knew what that meant; brain washing. They would not remember anything that had transpired in the last days.
"But why, for what purpose?" Karl thought maybe his father had been telling the truth.
"You're both needed on RE-BIRTH. I hope this time they'll keep you under better lock and key so you won't escape. What is this now, the fourth time you've escaped??"
Karl and Donavon both looked at each other, puzzled. Neither of them had any recollection of escaping before. The guard laughed and led them back into the van.
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