(The Clockwork Chimera #1)
By Scott Baron
Publication date: November 14th 2018
Genres: Adult, Science Fiction
Life in deep space could be a drag sometimes, but Daisy supposed things could have been worse. They were still alive, after all, which was always a plus in her book. Now if only she could figure out who, or what, was endangering her return home, things would be just peachy.
It had been one hell of a way to start the day––being rudely snapped from a deep cryo-sleep, and in the middle of a ship-wide crisis to boot––but Daisy was pleased to note that the ship had not decompressed, the crew hadn’t been blasted into space, and, most importantly, they hadn’t simply blown up. At least not yet. So, they had that going for them, but being stuck on a damaged ship in the inky depths of space as it limped toward Earth was not exactly the relaxing trip home she’d imagined.
With the powerful AI supercomputer guiding the craft beginning to show some disconcerting quirks of its own, and its unsettling cyborg assistant nosing into her affairs, Daisy’s unease was rapidly growing. Add to the mix a crew of mechanically-enhanced humans, any one of whom she suspected might not be what they seemed, and Daisy found herself with a sense of pending dread tickling the periphery of her mind.
Something was very much not right––she could feel it in her bones. The tricky part now was going to be figuring out what the threat was, before it could manifest from a mere sinking feeling in her gut into a potentially deadly reality.
“Is everything all right?” Barry asked her, pausing his scan of her cryo pod’s vitals readout to survey the groggy woman.
“I was having a dream,” she said, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
“A dream? No one dreams in cryo,” Barry replied, eyeing her with an odd expression. “Perhaps it is merely data ghosting. I had to pull you from the neuro-stim cycle prematurely. That might be what you experienced. You have had many years of information fed into your mind as we traveled, after all. Do you know the crew roster? Your duties? All the relevant data for the voyage should have been trickle-fed through your neuro-stim unit during transit.”
Daisy looked at him, confused.
“You’re aboard the Váli. We’re still six months from the moon’s Dark Side base, orbiting Earth. I understand you may be feeling groggy or disoriented, but I really do need to tend to the other crewmembers. The cycle was not complete, and you are all still coming out of your stasis-sleep. The neural stimulators were—”
“What in the hell is going on with my ship?” Captain Harkaway bellowed as he lurched from his cryo-pod, yanking the physio-stim electrodes from his skin as he hopped to his feet. His metal leg impacted the floor with a jarring clang. From hip to tip, Daisy noted, his left leg was entirely mechanical. He rubbed a hand through his gray crew cut.
“Dammit, Mal, what’s the sitrep?” he growled to the ever-monitoring computer.
“We have experienced an unexpected impact, Captain,” the AI calmly informed him. “Short-range nav is down, multiple communications systems and sensor arrays are compromised throughout the ship, and there is unknown external damage. Port Storage twelve has been sealed, and we have been knocked slightly off course from the impact.”
“You’re designed to handle these things, why did you wake us up? Hell, you could have sent Barry out for that. The whole point of having a cyborg with us is he doesn’t have to go into cryo-sleep and can do—”
“There are also several small fires on board, and my sensors have been unable to detect them all.”
“Oh. Shit,” he said as a burst of adrenaline flooded his system. “Get the others up!”
“On it already, Captain, as per protocol,” Barry replied.
“I’m heading to the bridge.” He cast a curious look at the groggy tech. “Swarthmore, you all right?”
“Daisy, are you with me?”
“Yeah. Just feeling a little weird.”
“It’s to be expected. Try to pull yourself together and get your head on straight. This is what you do. You’re the tech guru. I’ve got a feeling I’m going to be needing your expertise once we get this whole burning-to-death-in-the-void-of-space thing under control.”
Daisy slowly slid to her feet, steadying herself on awkward-feeling legs.
“Mal, send a full report to my station in the command pod. Barry, get the others up and moving. If we’ve got a fire, I’m going to need every damn hand on deck, ASAP,” Harkaway barked.
A shining metal fist smashed through the hardened shell of the stasis-pod nearest the cyborg.
“Barry, handle it,” the captain grumbled, then stormed out of the chamber’s airlock doors.
The fist belonged to Tamara Burke, a sturdily muscled brunette with wisps of gray hair streaking her temples. Her entire right arm from the shoulder down was metal, thin seams and indentations crisscrossing the surface at the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints. Where the metal met her flesh, the foreign material seemed to meld to her body, a faint scar the only sign she wasn’t born with it.
Her metal hand began tearing free of the pod as if it were paper, not heavily-reinforced polymer.
“Tamara, calm down,” Barry soothed her from a safe distance.
She paused, the stasis fog clearing from her head. A slight blush colored her cheeks.
“Oh hell. Sorry, Barry. Training. What the hell happened? I was mid-upgrade when you snapped me out. You know what can happen when you interrupt a neuro-stim cycle.”
“I am aware. However Mal and I concurred it was best to have the entire crew awakened at once. We suffered an impact, and there appear to be one or more unlocated fires on board.”
She rapidly scanned the chamber until her eyes fell on Daisy, standing unsteadily beside pod and looking groggy, while the rest of the crew slowly clambered from theirs.
“Shit, you really did mean everyone. Hey, new kid. Good morning.” She nodded a greeting to Daisy.
A native Californian, Scott Baron was born in Hollywood, which he claims may be the reason for his off-kilter sense of humor. Before taking up residence in Venice Beach, he spent a few years studying abroad before settling into the film and television industry, where he has worked off and on for some time. Scott not only writes, but is also involved in indie film and theater both in the U.S. and abroad.
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